17 October 2019

Patients whose lives were saved by organ donation joins Hospitals to celebrate the gift of life

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust held an event on Saturday to celebrate organ donation and the 30th anniversary of the first heart transplant that took place in Sheffield (11th October 1989).

Transplant patients and relatives from across the decades joined cardiology staff to celebrate the lives saved by the heart and lung transplants in Sheffield.

Although the Trust no longer performs these type of transplants, the regional team still retrieve hearts when a deceased person donates their organs. The Trust also currently transplants kidneys and corneas.

One former patient who attended the event was Nicola Dixon, 49, from Everton near Doncaster, whose heart grew to the size of a rugby ball when she became very unwell just a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter Beth, now 17.

Nicola had felt extremely tired about five weeks after the birth, but put it down to a cold or exhaustion. As her symptoms got worse, she was admitted to hospital and doctors soon realised that her heart wasn’t working properly. An echocardiogram revealed it was at less than 20% of its proper function.

She said: “I was told that I needed a transplant, and was a priority case. I was extremely lucky and the very next day underwent a transplant at the Northern General Hospital. Organ donation saved my life. It was incredible that I was able to receive a new a heart as soon as I needed one. This isn’t often the case with many patients who spend a long time on waiting lists.

“With the gift of a transplant I have been able to see my daughter grow up. I can’t put it into words how grateful I am to the donor family and all the amazing staff who make miracles happen”.

Another patient who attended the event, Gavin Worley, received a donor heart at the Northern General in 1999, after he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy three years earlier. Gavin was a sports-mad teenager at the time, who played cricket, football and tennis, and was also training as a journalist.

Following the transplant, he went on to land a dream job with the Press Association and covered two Olympic Games - Athens 2004 and London 2012. He also married his wife, Emma, and had two daughters, Isabelle, 14 and Amelia, 11, who both performed dance routines at the anniversary celebration.

He said: “None of this would have been possible without organ donation. It’s the most precious gift anyone could give.

Gavin has also written a poignant poem to mark the anniversary and celebrate his gift of life (see below).

Mr Peter Braidley, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Clinical Director, said: “The aim of the celebration was to raise awareness of transplantation with a view to encourage people to sign up on the Organ Donor register after seeing how successful heart and lung transplantation can be in changing patients’ lives.”
If you are interested in finding out more about organ donation please visit https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/how-you-can-help/donate


Poem by Gavin Worley:

The stunning and aptly-named Cape of Good Hope was a fitting place to start
Where in 1967 Christiaan Barnard transplanted the very first heart
So many pioneers have worked tirelessly over the years to help pave the way
Their determination to succeed can be viewed in the many transplant centres we see today
To me, the Northern General is special and the superb aftercare beyond compare
Helen and Emma treat their patients like family, a trait in today’s society that is unfortunately so rare
It’s now over twenty years since the day I got the call
When my failing heart was thumping and I felt like I could fall
I raced through to Sheffield with an overwhelming sense of fear
While somewhere in a hospital room, a devastated family were shedding a tear
Saying goodbye to a loved one is impossible to comprehend
You were never far from my family’s thoughts as the surgery was nearing its end
Just two distant strangers who never had the chance to meet
Bonded by a beating heart and a promise I intend to keep
To make the most of this second chance with my beautiful girls and wife
There’s simply nothing on earth that can compare to the incredible gift of life
So it’s time to celebrate this most special anniversary and remember all those who played a part
Surgeons, nursing staff, donors and their families - thank you from the bottom of my incredibly precious heart.

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