Good neighbours offer lasting legacy to King’s Liver Unit

25.08.16   Categories: News from the hospital, Supporter stories
Michelle Mitchell (middle) with Professor Heaton and Dr Heneghan from King’s Liver Unit, with Michelle’s mum Betty and husband Philip.

Michelle Mitchell has had liver disease since the age of 13. She has had to have three liver transplants, two in 1992 and the latest in November 2015, from which she’s made a full recovery.

For more than 30 years, Michelle’s parents lived next door to an elderly gentleman called Sydney Orpin, in Borehamwood, south Hertfordshire. After his wife died, Sydney was taken under his neighbours’ wing, enjoying Friday night dinners every week for 17 years.

He went to their family functions, and even on a cruise to celebrate Michelle’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Michelle’s mum received a phone call from Sydney every morning at 9.30am and whenever she went on holiday, she phoned him at the same time from wherever she was around the world.

‘He was a lovely man and wanted to leave some money in his will to charity,’ Michelle says. ‘As he knew I’d been looked after so well at King’s he decided to leave part of his estate to King’s.’

Last year, at the age of 99, Sydney became unwell – and so did Michelle. As she prepared for her transplant at King’s, Sydney sadly passed away. At the very moment he was cremated, Michelle was wheeled into the operating theatre.

Friendship prompted generous legacy to King’s

It was then that Michelle’s family discovered the extent of Sydney’s gratitude for their hospitality all those years – he’d left an amazing £407,000 to King’s.

Michelle says: ‘I am absolutely thrilled that the hospital can benefit from Sydney’s legacy.  I have also been working very hard raising funds for the Liver Unit at King’s since 2000. I have held quizzes, film evenings, made celebratory cards and held sales at the hospital selling unwanted gifts. I have now raised over £22,000 and look forward to raising more funds for the hospital for this gift of life that I have been given.’

Michelle’s surgeon, Professor Nigel Heaton, said ‘We are extremely grateful for this incredibly kind gift, and thank Michelle and her family for their generosity to Sydney, and also for the donations they have made themselves.’

Advances in treatment delivered by King’s Liver Unit

King’s Liver Unit opened its doors 50 years ago. Since then, many of the significant moments in the treatment and research of liver disease worldwide have taken place within its walls, including:

  • the UK’s first liver transplant in children
  • the world’s first split liver transplant, where the liver from a single donor is divided and transplanted into two different patients
  • the most liver transplants carried out in the UK in a single year
  • the discovery of genetic faults that cause liver cancer in children
  • the largest liver transplantation programme in Europe.

Michelle and her family are now working with the Liver Unit team to make sure the money is used to have the greatest impact possible.

Dr Michael Heneghan, one of Michelle’s doctors, says: ‘Here at King’s Liver Unit, I’ve seen a staggering 73% rise in liver and bile duct cancer referrals since 2005. The rate of liver cancer in the UK has also doubled in the last 10 years – and is set to rise even more dramatically over the next decade. If we are to cope with this startling rise in many liver conditions, and continue saving lives and caring for patients year after year, we urgently need to fund more resources. This donation will really help us do that, and for that we are very appreciative.’

Leaving a gift in your will is a wonderful way to support your hospital. Find out more – it’s easier than you think.

Top image: Michelle Mitchell (middle) with Professor Heaton and Dr Heneghan from King’s Liver Unit, with Michelle’s mum Betty and husband Philip. Bottom image: Michelle (right) holds a photo of Sydney while Dr Michael Heneghan and Professor Nigel Heaton hold the cheque for £407,000


King’s College Hospital Charity. Registered Charity No. 1165593. Company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No. 09987908. Registered address: King’s College Hospital, London SE5 9RS