Forty-nine-year-old Jan Magnusson was 24 when he became acutely ill with primary biliary cirrhosis, a condition requiring a liver transplant. “I had never been at hospital before, but I was very sick so it was the only way for me to live,” said Magnusson.
Magnusson was among the first patients in Sweden to receive a transplant in 1986. He said it was very scary. “But I was so young then so I was a bit irritated that I was going to die and I was not interested in dying at that moment. I wanted to live, so I struggled and fought the disease, and survived.”
Anders Kronberg, 27, was only two years old when the pioneering Swedish surgeon Dr. Carl Groth operated on him. He said he can’t remember much from the transplant because he was so little but one of the other recipients at Karolinska today remembered how he was.
“I heard one of the other patients say that at the time he was envious of me because I was happy and running around and he was in constant pain and had to lie down most of the time,” said Kronberg, a student in Uppsala.
About 130 organ transplants are performed each year in Sweden, but there are more than 700 people waiting for a transplant, said Dr. Annika Tibell, head of the department for transplantation surgery at Karolinska University Hospital. “For all organ transplants the access to organs is not enough.”
Tibell said that Swedes are generally positive about organ donation after death but that many people haven’t told a family member or registered in the donation registry.
“When you die and your will is not known, then the family has to make a decision and that is a difficult decision at a difficult time,” said Tibell.
About 1.4 million Swedes are officially registered for organ donation.