Ciprian Dumitru, Co-op, Leyburn 

Big Issue vendor Ciprian Dumitru has been "given new life" after a liver transplant. Now he's glad to have The Big Issue's support to help him make the most of it

I’m happy with how things are going on my pitch at the moment. I came back to this pitch this year after eight years away and people still remembered me. They knew my face, they knew about my problems, everything. 

I had to stop selling the magazine in Leyburn because I needed a liver transplant. I got hepatitis in the last few years I was in Romania. When I came to England in 2012, I found out I had cirrhosis of the liver and the doctor said to me, “If you don’t have a liver transplant you are going to die.” I asked him, “how?” I felt better in myself at that time. I felt happy, I felt strong. He said in one year’s time, your health is going to decline and when I saw that happening, I understood I had to get back to the hospital. I was very tired; I couldn’t work and I just wanted to sleep all the time. I was just thinking about my seven kids. The doctor got me on the transplant list and I had the transplant at Newcastle hospital in January 2017. I stayed in the hospital for a long time and for the two years following the operation I was in every week. I am grateful to the hospital because they kept me safe. If I was in Romania five or six years ago, I would be dead. But in England, it is different, very different. 

The transplant has given me new life. I’m still not allowed to do too much hard work because the doctors test me every six months and they get me to do a blood test every six weeks. They say, “Ciprian, you have to keep waiting because everything is fine, but you are at maybe 70 per cent, not 100 per cent.” I’ve got a liver from somebody else, so I have around 10 tablets every day and I have to look after it. 

That meant I had to stay in the house during the pandemic and believe me, when the doctor told me I had to shield I stayed still from March 2020 until June. My brother helped me get food and stuff for the kids while I stayed at home with a mask and gloves on my hands because if I got coronavirus, I would have been dead straight away. I had to be very careful. I was a little bit scared, and I still wear a mask now on my pitch. 

I like selling the magazine and I’m happy that I have nice customers in Leyburn. Sometimes they bring me coffee as well as buying the magazine. Some tell me they want to buy from me every week or that they come from 20 miles away to see me. The Big Issue was my first job when I came to England.  I did not speak English when I started, I didn’t have ID and it was hard for me. I said, “What can I do here? I can’t work, I can’t speak English, how can I get help?” I found The Big Issue and it helped me to speak English and start again. The Big Issue gives me lots of help with family, rent, lots of things. It is helping me to cover my bills and my rent too and everything is okay.  

But I like to give back too. On Saturdays, I try to help out with a charity near where I live. I want to help because I know what it’s like to need help. 

I want to say thank you so much to my customers. Every week they help me. They smile at me, they say, “good morning” and ask, “how are you?” They start a conversation with me. That is a very important thing for me.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Co-op Food - Leyburn, Market Place, Leyburn, UK