A liver transplant patient from Prestwich has spoken about how a stranger who saved his life spurred him to become a councillor.

Cllr Sean Thorpe recently thanked St Mary’s Ward constituents after he kept his seat in the local elections and expressed the “great privilege” he feels giving back to the community as he is “only here today through an act of kindness”.

In 2015, Sean was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease due to hemochromatosis, an inherited condition where iron levels in the body slowly build up over many years.

Bury Times: Sean Thorpe before the transplant surgery Sean Thorpe before the transplant surgery (Image: public)

This build-up of iron, known as iron overload, often affects those of Celtic backgrounds, and when untreated, can affect the liver, joints, pancreas and heart.

The condition led to Sean being put on a transplant list for a donor liver, which he has been living with for five years now.

He said: “There are so many dimensions to transplant stories as alongside the grief and physical struggles, there is an emotional battle that occurs, unique to each recipient.

“Everyone prepares you for the physical challenge of transplant but no one really prepares you for the emotional challenge because it is a difficult thing to get your head around.

“I remember being in the hospital for about seven or eight days after I had my transplant, and I was asked if I knew the donor.

Bury Times: Cllr Sean Thorpe with his wife at the local elections 2023 Cllr Sean Thorpe with his wife at the local elections 2023 (Image: public)

“Due to privacy rules, it is kept anonymous, but I guessed that it would have probably been a man, of a similar size to me and from somewhere in the north of England.

“The only thing I truly do know about him is that he is saved my life.”

Sean said after the realisation, that a stranger had saved his life, he was hit by a wave of emotion that he still feels now, both gratitude and a sense of survivor’s guilt and grief that he couldn’t wrap his head around.

He said that feeling is one of the reasons he then trained as a therapist, to help people, in deep emotional crises, or to help resolve other aspects of life.

He said: “It is a similar reason to why I also became a councillor.

Bury Times: Sean Thorpe with his wife before the transplant surgery Sean Thorpe with his wife before the transplant surgery (Image: public)

“I've always done a lot of community work and once I had my transplant, I started to do more because I didn't feel confident enough for paid work as my health wasn't great and I was in and out of hospital.

“I carried on volunteer work until one day, I thought about being a councillor which is almost the epitome of giving back to other people.

“I have so much gratitude and I could never repay, whoever it was that saved my life so I would like to help other people through this job.”

Bury Times: Cllr Sean Thorpe at the 2023 local elections Cllr Sean Thorpe at the 2023 local elections (Image: public)

Sean first noticed the minor symptoms that something was wrong in 2015 when he had some slight discolouration on his ankles.

After his wife told him to see a GP, it was diagnosed as varicose veins and he was referred to a vascular surgeon.

He said: “Although I was slightly overweight at the time, I was fairly healthy and was told to take several blood tests as the initial results caused some concern.

“I didn’t feel unwell so I was referred to a haematologist and given the thumbs up that I could go on holiday for my and my wife’s silver wedding anniversary.”

After returning, Sean had several more appointments that discovered his liver function tests “were all out” and he was diagnosed with end-stage liver failure.

Bury Times: Sean Thorpe before the transplant surgery Sean Thorpe before the transplant surgery (Image: public)

As he still felt and appeared to be in good spirits and health, he wasn’t initially put on the transplant list and instead, was closely monitored.

He said: “When things start to really go wrong, amongst other things, you lose energy big style and when my health deteriorated, I was placed on the transplant list.

“I was on the waiting list for 11 months then one night, whilst eating tea with my family, I got the transplant call and when the doctor checked my blood before the transplant, he told me he couldn’t believe how well I looked considering the state of my liver.”

Sean never discovered who his donor was but sent the family a message following the transplant as after his mother-in-law died, his father-in-law took comfort during his grief in a message from the recipient of his wife’s organs.

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Since the transplant, Sean became a councillor and is a fully qualified Cognitive Hypnotherapist certified by the National Council for Hypnotherapy.

He has a Master Practitioner’s qualification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), is a certified Coach and is trained and qualified at the renowned Quest Institute at Regents University in London.

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He said: “One thing I would like to urge people to do is to have the organ doner conversation with your loved ones.

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“New legislation means everyone is an organ donor and you have to opt-out if you don’t want to be, but having that talk with the people you love is so important if anything ever were to happen.”

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