A double lung transplant patient who was once a promising Aston Villa footballer has thanked Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust staff for saving his life – and is sharing his story as Organ Donation Week gets underway.
Father-of-five Daniel Doherty, 38, from Shelfield, underwent a 13-hour transplant on May 30 at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was referred by Walsall Healthcare after working hard to stop smoking and turn his life around.
Since then the former warehouse labourer has been able to walk freely again after having to use a wheelchair for several years due to breathing difficulties.
A 20-a-day smoker from the age of nine to 33, Daniel had a history of breathing problems, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and type 2 respiratory failure, which left him unable to walk.
And although he had cut down to “a couple of drags a day” by the time he gave up nearly five years ago, the damage had been done.
“I understand why people smoke because it’s an addiction and I’ve been there,” said Daniel. “But if people had been in my position having had two comas, a tracheostomy and not being able to breathe, they might think differently.
“Unfortunately, you can’t see the terrible damage you’re doing to your body by smoking.
“By the time I had my transplant I couldn’t bear to be near smoke – I’d have to cover my face when I was near it.”
Daniel has been told his new lungs came from a male non-smoker in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and, coupled with being five years smoke free, he is feeling the benefits.
“Before my operation, I didn’t enough know about the possibility of a transplant and thought I was going to die,” he said. “I was a right mess.
“I don’t know the donor but I’d like to write him a letter of thanks because he saved my life.”
Having spent many months at Walsall Manor Hospital over the last five years, Daniel says he also owes his life to staff, particularly Dr Kutaeba Ibrahim, Respiratory and General Physician, Respiratory Lead.
“Dr Ibrahim said to me ‘if you put in 100 per cent, we’ll put in 110 per cent’ – he’s a lovely person and has been brilliant, offering me advice all the time,” said Daniel.
“It’s not only him though but all the Nurses. You can tell they’re there for the love of the job and the patients.”
It’s all a far cry from when Daniel was spotted by talent scouts and invited to train with Aston Villa, where he was coached by legendary striker Peter Withe, the scorer of the club’s most famous goal to win the European Cup in 1982.
“I used to train at their school of excellence at Bodymoor Heath every week from the ages of nine to 11 but unfortunately I couldn’t get transport there after those first two years,” he recalled.
Now he is keen to increase his energy levels so he can spend more time with grandson Arlo, aged three, his partner of 20 years Rachael, 40, and their children, who range 13 to 21.
Dr Ibrahim said: “I had my first meeting with Daniel on 23 May, 2019, when he was intubated with COPD.
“Over the course of multiple admissions, we established him on oxygen and non-invasive ventilation. He worked very hard to stop smoking and was very engaged with the team.
“In July 2021 I spoke to him about the possibility of a lung transplant and we worked very hard with him to the point where in September 2022 I referred him for a double transplant.
“Nine months later he had the transplant and has made a full recovery. We’re delighted to see how Daniel has turned his life around, and to see he’s enjoying such a better quality of life.
“This is an excellent example of collaboration between Walsall Healthcare, University Hospital North Midlands NHS Trust’s (UHNM) Sleep and Ventilation Service and the QE, through Richard Thompson, Respiratory Physician and Lung Transplant Lead.”
The NHS Blood and Transplant NHSBT welcomes organ donation. People can register through the NHSBT website here.