‘Race against time’ to save York music legend who needs urgent liver transplant
One of York’s best-known musicians is in a ‘race against time’ to get a life-saving liver transplant – and he needs your help.
Don Jackson has been a major figure in the York music business for 40 years, performing in some of the city’s best known bands and gaining international fame as a producer.
After falling ill with liver disease, the father-of-five has been on the waiting list for a transplant since last summer.
However, last month, through the ‘cruellest twist of fate’, the NHS told him it would no longer undertake the critical surgery – even though a donor had been found.
It means his only hope is if he pays to have the operation abroad.
Now Don’s friends have launched a fundraiser hoping to reach a target of £80,000. That would pay for a liver transplant in Turkey, plus the flights, accommodation and associated costs.
And there is no time to lose.
Dave Sollitt, who has been friends with Don since they were both in York bands in the late 1970s, said the Turkish doctors have told him, “in an ideal world, we would want you over here within the next couple of weeks”.
“So not only is it this life and death situation, but it’s also a race against time,” Dave told YorkMix.
NHS decision ‘a disaster’
Don, 58, whose youngest child is just two years old, found out he needed a transplant after a scan last year revealed cancerous lesions on his liver.
At that point, all was hopeful. The NHS says that the average wait for a liver transplant is 65 days. And his UK doctors told him to have his bag packed, because the surgery could happen at a moment’s notice.
But months went by without a donor being found.
Then, demonstrating remarkable selflessness and courage, a family member aged 23 volunteered to donate half of his liver to his Don.
More time went by as the family member completed multiple tests to confirm he was compatible, before Christmas intervened. But finally, as the new year dawned, it looked like the transplant could go ahead.
Don then had another scan last month. Afterwards, doctors told him the cancerous lesions on his liver had grown to a total size of 5.1cm.
And the NHS will only allow a liver transplant to go ahead if the lesions are 5cm or less, Dave said. So the operation was off.
He described that decision as “a death sentence”.
“Obviously, that was a bit of a disaster. It seems crazy that if you’ve got lesions that are 4.95cm you can have the transplant and you are right as rain in a few months.
“But if it’s 5.1, you can’t be operated on. And basically, if you don’t do anything else, you will die in a matter of months.”
They have appealed against the NHS’s verdict, but Dave isn’t hopeful. So the fundraiser for the Turkish transplant is vital.
Doctors there have seen his scans and “believe there’s a strong chance of a successful outcome”.
Played with everyone
Thousands of people in York will have seen Don perform in gigs across the city over the years.
“On the local music scene, he’s pretty much played with everyone, in all sorts of different bands,” Dave said.
As a performer, guitarist and songwriter he was in The Crowmen, CO2, Nearer The Far and Ripe. He performs with his long-time partner Carrie in current band Luna Velvet.
He is also a producer, and mastered the last two albums by The Waterboys. Internationally, he is best known for his record label Headstrong, which has released many well-loved dance tracks.
Many musicians have already rallied round to his cause. Shed Seven, about to head to Spain to record an album, have supported the appeal:
Dave said: “Support has been fantastic, and any help we can get is massively appreciated.
“We’re encouraging people to auction stuff off on the dedicated Facebook page. Anything you’ve got – music memorabilia is obviously kind of appropriate, but anything – if you’ve got an old washing machine flog that and then send us the money!”
Dave described Don as “the most enthusiastic and dedicated guy, particularly to music, but with his kids as well and life in general”.
If the NHS decision is overturned and they agree to operate, everyone who donated will get a refund.
But Dave’s message is clear. “Let’s raise this money and get him out there.
“We’re just asking people to put yourself in Dan’s shoes and dig deep.
“Anything large or small that people can do – or any major philanthropists out there, come and talk to us.
“We’d all like him to be around a bit longer to make more music for us.”