Desperately ill South Shields dad set to fly home for liver transplant

Di and Luke Wilkinson with children Jude and Finn who need to raise urgent funds to return to the UK for Luke's treatment.
Di and Luke Wilkinson with children Jude and Finn who need to raise urgent funds to return to the UK for Luke's treatment.

A seriously ill South Shields dad will arrive at home from Singapore in a matter of hours in the hope of receiving a life-saving liver transplant.

Luke Wilkinson, 37, is facing a race against time to find a donor for a life-saving liver transplant after he collapsed while on holiday with his family in Singapore last Sunday.

Speaking to the Gazette from his bedside, wife Di, 34, said Luke is now set to fly to Newcastle at 6pm today, arriving in the early hours of tomorrow.

She said: “The flight has been paid for by the insurance company and will see Luke arrive at Newcastle in the early hours of September 18, before getting an ambulance straight to the Freeman Hospital.

“When he gets there he will be on the transplant list and could wait up to three days depending on who else is on the list, as there are different rates of liver failure.

“It will be a 10-hour flight back with three stops to refuel along the way, so we are just hoping he remains stable enough to fly.

“I am allowed on the plane with him, but I am still quite emotional at the thought of not being on the plane with the kids, but they will be with their grandma’s.”

An expat, Luke moved to Kuala Lumpur, with wife Di and two children, to work as an engineering consultant for an oil and gas company, but became ill five months ago. Originally from Marsden, Luke contracted several tropical infections while working abroad, and was on medication to treat them.

But on what was supposed to be a relaxing break at the Siloso Beach Resort in Singapore to recover, he collapsed and was diagnosed with liver failure as a result of the medication he was receiving.

Friends back in his home town launched an urgent appeal to raise £50,000 to bring him to the UK for a life-saving transplant, but on Thursday the family were given the good news their insurance would pay for Luke’s flight home.

Di added: “Luke is stable, but in a lot of pain and discomfort as his abdomen has swelled up and he is a bit confused.

“But now we have the flight sorted, I am really hopeful and feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel now.

“We have been so touched by the amount of support that has come from people.

“The funds raised from the Just Giving Page will pay for an emergency flight home for the kids and our parents, as well as the extended hotel stay.

“When we get back to the UK we will have absolutely nothing, so it will help to pay for food and clothing.

“Anything left over will be donated to the liver transplant unit of the Freeman.”