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First Northern Irish adult to receive ‘live’ liver transplant graduates from Queen’s

Aaron Smyth, from Omagh, is graduating from Queen’s University today with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

During his degree Aaron suffered from a chronic, auto-immune liver disease that badly affected his health and meant he had to take time out of his studies.

Subsequently, because of his liver disease, Aaron was placed on the transplant list for a liver transplant.

At the end 2016, at the age of 23, Aaron become the first adult from Northern Ireland to receive a ‘live’ liver transplant, which was donated his cousin Robert.

A ‘living’ donor transplant means that part of a donor’s liver is removed and transplanted into the recipient. During the subsequent months, the remaining parts of the liver grow back to full size, providing normal liver function to both the donor and the recipient.

Following his recovery Aaron has raised over £50,000 for liver charities and now sits on the committee for the RVH Liver Support Group, a charity offering support to those pre and post-transplant.

Aaron took two years out of his studies due to his illness but returned to Queen’s in 2017 to complete his Master's in Mechanical Engineering.

Aaron said: “The staff at Queen’s were supportive and understanding throughout. I took two years out of my degree when I was too ill and in recovery, and the staff at Queen’s ensured I was able to come back when I was ready without any issues, and I always felt I could talk to my advisor of studies.

“I really enjoyed the practical group projects that are built into the Mechanical Engineering course. My favourite part was the testing day for the folding bike that my team made in third year. It was great to see the culmination of all that work actually being cycled and put to the test.

“It feels fantastic to be graduating now that I am fully recovered. It's been a long road but I've always wanted to be an engineer.”

After graduation Aaron will start his job in TESAB Engineering and will marry his fiancée, Eimear, in May 2020.