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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Yes to biking, Yes to hiking: Heart transplants

Today is the 44th anniversary of the first heart transplant in the U.S., back in 1967. Nowadays, heart transplants are safer and more common, and more complex transplants can be performed. A domino transplant is performed on patients with cystic fibrosis because both lungs need to be replaced and it is a technically easier operation to replace the heart and lungs at the same time. As the recipient's native heart is usually healthy, it can be transplanted into someone else who needs a heart transplant.

Here's the story of Andrew Wilson, a 30-something Brit who received a heart transplant in 1987:

It all started when I was ten days old and I contracted suspected Meningitis, the virus attacked my heart muscle, the doctors at Warrington General Hospital also suspected I had also suffered from a stroke leaving me with slight brain damage and a weakness down my right side.

My early life was spent in and out of Hospital's suffering from many chest infections and viruses. I was placed under heart consultant Dr. Arnold at Myrtle Street Children's Hospital in Liverpool. I was placed on a cocktail of drugs from an early age such as digoxin, frusimide aimed to stop my failing heart. 
As I grew older into my childhood my condition worsened and I was un able to do the normal things kids did back then, I was a mad football fan and was unable to play football or walk very far without feeling breathless and tired.

As the years drew on it was decided to transfer me to Harefield Hospital as Dr. Arnold had told my mum (Sue) and dad (Bryan) that there was nothing more they could do and that I needed a heart transplant, so we waited for the call to go down to Harefield......

Transplant Years- The Gift Of Life! 
Finally we got the call to go down to Harefield and little did my parents and myself know the life changing effects that one journey would have....
I underwent the tests and expected to be home in time for Christmas after being put on the waiting list.
In the early hours of December 17th 1987 I was visited by non other than Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub and after seeing me told my mum and dad that I needed a heart transplant and there was
A young Scottish girl named Samantha Dawkins who had suffered from cystic fibrosis needed a new heart and lung transplant and had decided to donate her heart for transplantation.
Both my parents were left with little time to decide on the life saving operation, but woke me later that night and told me I was going to have a heart transplant!!

Funny as it sounds my parents told me I was in high spirits as I went down to theatre, my parents then said good bye and my life was about to change.

The operation itself went on for nine hours and after a few hairy moments placing me on the life support machine the operation was a success.

I spent over six months at Harefield and in that time lived in Harefield Village in the designated flats for the patients well before Parkwood was built (on site accommodation).
Eventually I was able to finally meet the young girl who had saved my life and soon enough we had struck up a friendship I was given a St. Christopher medal with the message "With All My Heart Samantha." I also gave her a golden heart locket, the gifts symbolised the bond between us.

I had expected setbacks with rejection in the early days including a biopsy which had gone wrong, a surgeon accidentally went through an artery in my neck causing blood to flow into my chest and lungs, I was then placed into intensive care where eventually I recovered. 

Despite that my childhood from the age of nine changed for the better as I was finally able to play football, run in local school races and do everything my fellow friends could do, it was indeed a whole new experience and a welcome one!

 Whilst down in Harefield both Samantha and myself had the opportunity to meet H.R.H. The Duchess Of York when she opened at the time the new intensive care unit.
 We also appeared on such programmes as T.V.AM and Bodymatters, and were interviewed by the national newspapers,( I guess you could say we were celebs Ha..)
 I also helped in fund raising for Harefield and the British Heart Foundation. Being a Liverpool fan I was also lucky enough to have my childhood dream granted and became the mascot for the reds back in 1988.

"My Heart Is Yours"
 For eighteen months both Samantha and myself enjoyed a bond beyond friendship, we often kept in touch taking a holiday to Blackpool, as well as spending time together at Christmas. As time drew on Samantha unfortunately contracted a virus and desperately needed a new transplant, though sadly this time there wasn't a donor available and she died a day after her 17th birthday in 1989. I take comfort in the fact that a part of Sam still lives on inside me, and that I got to see her before she died.

After Samantha's tragic death I appeared again on T.V.A.M talking about the need for donors. Since then, though I have found it hard, I have tried to move on. I still keep in contact with Samantha's family (Liz, Roger and Jason). 

Health wise I have gone from strength to strength with only my last rejection in 1993 and a heart rhythm disorder in 1996. I was then placed under Dr. Banner, I then underwent a small procedure to stop and restart my heart, thankfully it worked and with the help of medication I recovered.....
Flash Back - Be Positive in Mind!

With regards to my schooling I attended Hamblett School which was a school for children with disabilities as I also suffer with cerebral palsy, I eventually left after my transplant and moved into main stream where I then moved on to college gaining a G.N.V.Q in business studies at Distinction level and also a G.C.S.E In both English Lit and Language grades A for course work and B and C for the respective exams. I also studied on a creative writing course gaining university credits though I did not take up that option. 
Despite my limited school access before and after my transplant I was still able to achieve my goals within education with a positive determination that I am indeed proud of!!

Message Of Hope!
 This December, is my sixteen year anniversary [this was written in 2004] and looking back I am eternally grateful to Samantha and her family not to mention all the doctors at Harefield for for their continuing dedication and support to fellow Transplants like myself. Despite some challenging times my transplant has given me and many other people years of happiness and long may it continue.....

A New Century, A New Man
I am now a singer/songwriter and was a member of the British Music Academy, I have written for Eurovision with a track called "Come Together", back in 2001 and was later aired on "Radio Merseyside" which was a huge boost. I have also written for a local arts theatre in 2002. It is now 2004 and I'm preparing to go into the studio to lay down some of the tracks I have written including an animated cartoon like track "Where Are You Now" which I hope to pass on to future publishers. 
I am also a keen writer and have written both novels and poems in the past. I have decided to end the story but not the journey with a poem I wrote a few years after my heart transplant, which I hope you enjoy.


No football, no biking,
No running, no hiking,
Bleep goes the machine,
You lie there so weak,
Why is life so mean?

With the oxygen mask,
Life's a uphill task,
Oh donor come fast,
And save me at last.

A donor is found,
Put your feet on the ground,
And jump up for joy,
Life's changing my boy.

Yes to football, Yes to biking
Yes to running, Yes to hiking,
No more bleeps from that-
dreaded machine,
Life is better than ever it's been.

Your no longer wistful-
As you run in the grass-
Thanks to the gift of life,
Your problems may pass.....

This poem was written when I was eleven years old and is dedicated to the lasting memory of my donor Samantha and all who have helped me through the years A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL!!!
And So The Journey Continues.........

Read another inspirational heart transplant story. Thanks to Andrew for his story, reprinted from the website of To Transplant and Beyond, and to Wikipedia for the definition of domino transplant.

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