A FATHER-OF-TWO has saved the life of his childhood friend after donating part of his liver.

Billy-Joe Sewell and Luke Gumble, both 24 and from Stevenage, were part of the quickest live donor liver transplant in the UK.

Billy-Joe had been feeling unwell for several weeks and his eyes and skin had developed a yellowish tint. He said: “I was working all day and I was so tired afterwards that I could not do anything. I just didn’t feel right.”

He was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in London and was diagnosed with liver failure, of an unknown cause.

He was in a rapidly deteriorating condition and doctors felt he might have just days to live if he did not have a liver transplant.

A national call was put out for a liver from a deceased donor, but none that was suitable became available.

Members of Billy-Joe’s family and friends came forward, offering to donate part of their own livers. Out of six family members and friends, two were selected as potential donors – his sister and Luke.

Luke said: “As soon as I heard that Billy-Joe needed a liver transplant, I wanted to put myself forward. I would have done anything I could to help him.

“I had a feeling I was going to be a match. Everything happened very quickly. I went in for tests on a Wednesday, and on the Saturday morning I got a call to say I was a match and on Monday I had the operation.”

Billy-Joe said: “Luke and I have been best friends for the last 12 years, through football and going to the same secondary school. We see each other almost every day. Of all my friends and family, I still can’t believe that my best friend was a match.”

Professor Max Malago, transplant surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, oversaw the operations to remove more than half of Luke’s liver and to transplant it into Billy-Joe’s body.

The operations were performed at the same time, in adjacent rooms. The operation to remove the liver took about seven hours, while the operation to place the liver in Billy-Joe’s body took about nine hours.