To say thank you for the amazing care his wife Clare received at King's after her liver transplant, Mark Saunders has shaved off his luscious lockdown locks and raised almost £4,000 for King's College Hospital Charity!


Clare and Mark Saunders

15 years ago, a routine blood test showed that there was a problem with Clare's liver.  She was diagnosed with a condition called Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC), a chronic auto-immune liver disease that affects the bile ducts.

 

People diagnosed with PBC can initally live relatively symptom-free, which is why in January 2020, Clare was shocked to hear her condition had suddenly deteriorated to the point she needed a liver transplant. 

 

"I went in to King's College Hospital expecting to get a blood test, maybe a suggestion about new tablets and that would be it," Clare says.

 

  "To my surprise the staff at King's said, 'you need a liver transplant and you need it within the next 12 months.'"

 

In March 2020, as the country went into its first national lockdown, Clare was placed on the transplant waiting list and told to keep her mobile phone on her at all times.

 

On October 6th, just before midnight, the phone call came.  The King’s transplant team confirmed a suitable liver had become available, and an ambulance was on its way to pick up Clare.

 

"Mark was pacing, looking outside waiting for the ambulance," recalls Clare.  "I went and woke the kids to say goodbye.  I said my goodbye to Mark.

 

"Until I got in the ambulance, I had managed to hold it together.  But once the ambulance doors shut, it became all too real that this was happening."


Clare is shielding while she recovers from her transplant

The operation was a success and just over two weeks later, Clare was discharged from King's.  Once home, Mark and Clare brainstormed ways they could give back by fundraising for King's, but found many options were hampered by Clare’s recovery, and lockdown restrictions.

 

Eventually, Mark committed to growing out his hair and beard while Clare and the family continued to shield. Tending to his lockdown locks since October, Mark planned to shave it all off for a good cause as soon as restrictions eased, and the barbers reopened.

 

"All the staff in King's were amazing from the transplant coordinators, consultants, doctors, nurses, ICU staff, the Todd Ward staff, cleaners, porters, everyone," says Mark.


Mark shows off his lockdown hair with pup, Barney.

Remarkably, the family has already almost doubled their original fundraising target and Mark's workplace, ING, generously agreed to match the amount of donations that come through up to £2,000.

 

"We wanted to do something to raise money for King's because without them, I wouldn't be here," Clare says.  

 

"I did offer to shave my head too, but Mark didn't think it was a good idea!" 


Going, going, gone!

Stories like Mark's and Clare's are a chance to revisit the powerful stories of other patients who have come through the doors at King's College Hospital in need of a transplant, including:

  • Jessie, who completed a 5k walk to raise money to purchase play equipment for young patients at King’s to enjoy.
  • Molly, whose life was saved when her Mum, Fiona, donated part of her healthy liver to her sick daughter  
  • The legacy of Elena Betts, whose supporters continue to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation and raise money for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.