Less than two years after he was diagnosed with cancer, Billy John reached end-stage liver disease in 2001.
It all began when his wife noticed his constant fatigue and urged him to go for a check-up. “The disease must have been there for three years before my wife pushed me to see the doctor,” he said.
“At that time, liver transplants were done only at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, and CMC, Vellore. The doctor at Apollo, Chennai, referred me to CMC,” he said. Mr. John went on to become the fifth person in the country to undergo liver transplant and the second survivor.
Mr. John does not smoke or drink. During the six months he was at CMC, he repeatedly tested negative for all hepatitis infections. “But my skin was wrinkled and I appeared like an 85-year-old. People mistook my wife for my daughter,” the 57-year-old recalled.
At one point, doctors told him if he did not receive a donor liver in two months, he would die. Sometime in 2003, a lorry carrying a large number of people overturned near Vellore. “Three of the injured brought to the hospital were declared brain dead. The liver of one of the deceased matched my blood group,” he said. In a nine-hour surgery, the transplant was done.
Since then, he has survived two scares. In 2006, a tooth extraction left him with hepatitis B infection. “I don’t know how it happened. I saw the dentist use sterilised instruments as he knew I had undergone a liver transplant,” he said. Two years later, however, Mr. John tested negative for the infection.
A well-known bassist, he travels abroad frequently for performances. Not too long ago, he was diagnosed with polyps (nodules in the vocal chord), which requires surgery. But doctors changed their opinion in the last minute and advised just medication.
He began performing again this month.
An employee of Bank of Mysore in Parry’s Corner, Mr. John leads a full life, including climbing stairs at the railway station and riding a bike.
When he went for a review in January, doctors found his kidneys had shrunk. “The immunosuppressants have taken their toll. My doctor has reduced their dosage to a minimum now,” he said.