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Alcohol support

Should I donate part of my liver to my sister?

260 replies

Sienna7657 · 04/05/2021 10:58

Hi all,
My sister has been a heavy drinker for many years. It's got to the point that she has malnutrition and her liver has failed. She cannot walk anymore because she is that weak.
She is in need of a liver transplant. I know that in the uk, it can take many months before a donor is available. I'm the same blood group as her and I have a healthy bmi.
I am considering to give her part of my liver instead. However there are a few things I need to consider.
I am a single mum to 2 young children under 2. Recovery after a transplant can take upto 3 months and I dont think I can find anyone else to help me take care of the kids.
I would have to take unpaid leave off work. This would mean that my family will struggle financially and I really dont want to be asking my family for money.
What would you do if you were me?

OP posts:

MimiDaisy11 · 04/05/2021 13:35

Wow, this is so hard!

I see from your update that she has stopped drinking for two years. It's a shame it came too late for her to naturally heal her liver.

I'd have to look into the risk factors and what the chances are of complications etc. Maybe a stupid question but does the part of your liver you donate grow back? My online search seems to say it does but I'm not sure if there are different types of donations.
So after 6 months, you could be back to the health you are now.

If you can arrange childcare it is something to consider. You shouldn't feel bad about asking family for money for childcare if you're doing this for your sister. Them giving you money is much less a sacrifice than what you're considering doing.

I think I'd do it for my sister but easy for me to say it when it's not a situation I face.


TheLastLotus · 04/05/2021 13:36

@Anon9990 at the stage when liver failure has already led to hepatorenal syndrome (OP mentions toxins circulating in the blood) prognosis becomes very poor.

In any case there are no guarantees. OP this is a very difficult situation. Whatever you decide please do not feel guilty and embarrassed for asking as many questions as you can, or as much support as you can from family. Your children are innocent and depend on you. To go all out in order to make sure they’re protected is the minimum you must do as a mother. It is not your duty to save your sister, but IS absolutely your duty to protect your children.
If you do decide to go down this route make sure your affairs are in order and that you have offers of financial help, guardianship etc IN WRITING.

I’m saying this as someone who parent put me at risk to help someone else (not a transplant though). The sin of not performing your duty towards your child outweighs the good of saving a life.
If your family are decent and willing to step up and do so ofc this is irrelevant.


2bazookas · 04/05/2021 13:38

YOUR risk of dying, would be 1 in 200. (NHS transplant statistic)

No way should a single parent of young children take that risk (and because of it, I very much doubt you would be accepted as her potential donor by the NHS).

If your sister is still drinking any alcohol she won't be accepted onto the liver transplant waiting list. Because a transplant can't solve alcoholism so would be a pointless waste .

The worst thing you can do for an alcoholic, is supporting their self destructive behaviour.


unwuthering · 04/05/2021 13:39

I don't think she is a suitable candidate for a partial liver transplant. As others have said, I think you need to discuss your sister's prognosis with her medical team.


Tuesdaysintheazores · 04/05/2021 13:42

Could one of your parents donate instead OP? I don't think it's feasible for you as a single parent, not fair on your own kids. It may be that your sister's health is now pretty bad outside of just her liver, and that needs to be considered as well.


Smurftastic · 04/05/2021 13:44

Sorry I didn't read the thread, just wanted to add what I know. My mother was also considered for a liver transplant and I would have been a match, she is however not healthy enough to survive such operation. Are you sure it's even possible for your sister to undergo such massive operation? My mum ended up having a life saving TIPS procedure over 6 years ago. I know some patients have it done as they wait for a deceased donor liver transplant. Adult-to-adult liver transplant is incredibly risky with complications as high as 30% from the donor side and not insignificant mortality rate. I wouldn't do it if I were you, your children come first. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.


2bazookas · 04/05/2021 13:44


Sorry if I sound stupid but if I'm the same blood type as her and genetically related- does that mean that there is a chance that I'm not a match for her?

Yes. Same blood group/same parents does not guarantee a sibling tissue match for organ donation.

Although they had the same parents, each child receives different combinations of their genes; that's why siblings have very different looks, physiques, intelligence, health, from each other.

Alcemeg · 04/05/2021 13:46

Have you discussed this with the doctors, and what you can realistically expect in terms of improved prognosis if she does receive a liver transplant? Five-year survival rate is supposed to be typically ~75%, but various factors might affect this.


GardenWander · 04/05/2021 13:47

Your first priority is to your young children. I wouldn’t make the offer and would decline a request. That would be my reply in any circumstance, but even more so when the damage was self-inflicted.


mnetter21 · 04/05/2021 13:47

Surely if you're doing this for your sister, it would be natural for her (and your parents) to offer compensation while you're recovering? I don't see why you are considering not accepting it and potentially saying "no" to the transplant which could save your sister's life?

I'm not saying that you should donate your kidney, it's a very difficult decision to make, only that if you do decide to go for it, accepting financial assistance for the months that you're recuperating sounds entirely reasonable. After all, it will allow you to arrange childcare etc.


Winter2020 · 04/05/2021 13:48

I’d have to say no.

You have no one to look after your kids or you - even if the operation went well. If it goes badly and their are complications your kids could end up in care and/or orphaned.

Definitely not. It’s natural to be devastated at what your sister is going through but you don’t need to be willing to risk leaving your kids growing up in care without a mother. Your first responsibility and obligation is to your kids. You didn’t cause your sisters problems and you can’t be her saviour - you have responsibilities.


YoniAndGuy · 04/05/2021 13:52

Would your sister even survive the surgery?!

As with all above, no. As a single parent, I just wouldn't risk my kids' only carer. What would happen to them if you died? It's not small surgery.

As for not liking to ask for help, omg! After what you would be doing - I would hope that it's not even in question that they would fully fund your time off work and take care of every single thing you and your children needed. If you'd even need to ask that would be another reason to say no tbh...

But all hypothetical. Don't do it.


KatyS36 · 04/05/2021 13:54

So sorry, what a difficult, tragic situation.

For me as a mum the risks to me, as a mum, would be too high. My first priority would be to my children.

Can you discuss this in confidence with an appropriate medical person? It may be that you or your sister aren't suitable suitable or other reasons why this isn't even something to consider.


Just thinking this could remove this as an option to consider


PerspicaciousGreen · 04/05/2021 13:54

If she's not been drinking for two years and you truly believe that, and if her doctors thought it had a reasonable chance of success for her, and a genuinely negligible risk to me, I would consider it.

However, I absolutely would take money and practical help from my family to make it happen. It's not failing in your duty as a mother to accept help! In fact, I would say it would be worse if you powered through and your children suffered for it. I would also want to hire household help over and above my normal expenses for the recovery period - again, on their dime. Cleaner, nanny, maybe carer for me...

So I would do it on the condition that I and my children were well-provided for during that period - as you've said your family can afford it.


FriedasCarLoad · 04/05/2021 13:54

The money might not be a problem: the NHS pay kidney doner's salaries whikst they recover from transplants. I suspect they might do the same in the case.

Of course there are other factors, but don't let the financial implications alone put you off before checking this.


MintyMabel · 04/05/2021 13:55

I wouldn’t hesitate if it were my sister. I understand that alcoholics aren’t just making a choice to damage their bodies. I have a family member who is battling alcoholism and is coming up for a year sober after 15 years of drinking. Seeing how this previously dedicated to their family person has changed over that time, it was far more complex than just making a choice and not caring.


LizJamIsFab · 04/05/2021 13:55

I think I would but I would need to be convinced she is not drinking because she has stopped (rather than she physically cannot go out to get it) and that she has recovered enough psychologically to be able to take the medication/monitoring for life.

Is she on the transplant list?


AuntMarilla · 04/05/2021 13:58

I wouldn’t do it, OP.

I love my sister dearly but my responsibility is to my children.


Mrsmadevans · 04/05/2021 13:58

Have the Drs expressed any doubts that your sister will survive the transplant? Only she sounds so ill l wonder if it is a possibility. If she were to die after you had given her part of your liver enabling this transplant how would you feel OP. I am so sorry Flowers


Grimbelina · 04/05/2021 13:58

They will do a lot of tests to see if you are a match and what proportion of your liver you would need to donate. They will then be able to tell you what the risks are based on the percentage of your liver you would need to donate depending on position of arteries etc.

I think you would have to go through the tests etc. to see whether it was even possible before you could really look at risk.

In your position, I don't think I would. That is very hard to write.


Fireflygal · 04/05/2021 13:59

Op, speak to the Liver Trust. However if your sister is very unwell but if she is well enough to survive a transplant she will be very high on the priority list. The list moves according to need and suitable matches. The wait for a transplant really depends on matches coming available.

Is she in one of the 6 specialist transplant units in the UK? They are amazing staff who will do everything to help her survive and you would be advised if live transplant is a possibility. They would then take you through the process. I think until you know if it's realistic I wouldn't put your mind into overdrive. Save your energy for supporting your sister through any assessments as it'san arduous process .


AuntMarilla · 04/05/2021 14:00

Also - I’m sorry to say this but addicts are addicts.

There’s a reasonably good chance she will relapse. How would you cope with seeing her trash the liver you risked yours and your kids’ lives to donate?


C8H10N4O2 · 04/05/2021 14:01


Why don't you call the transplant team for advice?

I'm sorry, but, I suspect the PP are right, if there has not ben a discussion about transplant it may be because the surgery is not suitable for your sister.

Transplant counselling is in-depth and lots of people don't go ahead with the operation, even for their own sister. It is lovely that you would even consider it.

I'm sorry your sister is so unwell.

Seconding this. You need to discuss this in depth with the counseling team for living donors where you can share all your personal feelings and situation and they can help you make a final decision.

First though you need to know that she has been approved for a transplant which requires transplant team approval predicated on both her being well enough to receive the transplant and successfully stopping drinking with a good prospect of staying alcohol free.

A1b2c3d4e5f6g7 · 04/05/2021 14:04

I haven't read the full thread, but yes I would 100% definitely do this for my sister. However for me it would have to be conditional on: 1) that she had definitely definitely stopped drinking - I know you've confirmed she's been sober for two years; and 2) everyone in the family is willing to pitch in and help for the recovery period both financially, practically, emotionally etc for the full three months. I'd want it agreed in advance exactly what everyone would commit to doing - i.e. who does what school runs and when, who does what weekends and when, who will arrange shopping and cleaning, who will cook for the children and me, who will take the children on outings and trips so they don't miss out.

I wouldn't feel uncomfortable about finances being provided for by your sister and your parents if they have the means to do so, because it wouldn't be fair for you as a single parent to not have financial stability for your family.

But its a hugely personal decision, and my sisters aren't alcoholics, so its probably a more complex decision for you than if one of my sisters needed a transplant


littlepattilou · 04/05/2021 14:06

@Sienna7657 Oh hell no.

Don't do it.

Your sister almost certainly won't look after the new liver, and you will be ill for MONTHS.

Apart from my one child (daughter - mid 20s,) I would not do anything like this for ANYone, nope. Especially not for an addict. As a number of people have said, addicts (who are addicted to booze or drugs,) are the most selfish, thoughtless, self-absorbed people.

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