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Liam Barnett (MEng 2010) owes his life and swimming success to a stranger

12 September 2013

Liam Barnett (MEng 2010) was given the gift of life when he received a new liver in summer 2011 and has since won seven Gold medals in seven record times at the World Transplant Games this summer.

Liam Barnett (MEng 2010) was given the gift of life when he received a new liver in summer 2011. Now, just two years later, he's returned home from the World Transplant Games in South Africa with seven gold medals and seven world records to his name.

Liam, 26, has always been a swimmer. But, at the age of 13, he was diagnosed with a rare condition, primary sclerosing cholangitis, that caused his immune system to attack his liver.

While studying at Bristol, Liam was also captain of the University swimming team. However, a year after graduating, his liver began to fail and he was hospitalised frequently with painful liver infections.

Because of the severity of his illness, Liam waited just a week before receiving a phone call informing him that a donor organ had been found and his transplant could go ahead. It wasn’t easy - Liam had three separate operations and was in hospital for more than three weeks. 

By January the following year, Liam was back at work and then back in the pool three months later. In August, he entered the British Transplant Games in Kent and, after winning four gold medals, went on to represent Great Britain (GB) in the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa this summer.

Liam’s gold medals and long course (50m) record times include:

  • 200m freestyle: 2.05.37 (previous world record: 2.27.81)
  • 100m freestyle: 55.62 (previous world record: 60.00)
  • 50m freestyle: 25.50 (previous world record: 26.31)
  • 50m butterfly: 26.96 (previous world record: 30.40)
  • 200m individual medley: 2.19.70 (previous world record: 2.45.39)
  • 4x50m medley relay
  • 4x50m freestyle relay.

In addition, Liam also received the Outstanding Male Athlete award at the closing ceremony. He said: “With transplants, there is every chance that organs can fail at any point, as the body is naturally trying to reject the organ. All I can do is live as well as I can. The World Transplant Games were amazing - I met so many inspiring athletes from across the globe. The Games are really important, as they show what is possible after transplantation and help increase awareness of organ donation.”

“I am so grateful there was a donor to save my life," he adds. "But it is a fact that people are dying while on the transplant waiting list. More people are signing up, but not quick enough.”

Liam is passionate about encouraging people to sign up to the organ donor register and discuss their wishes with their family. To find out more about organ donation and sign up, please visit the NHS Blood and Transplant website.