Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Life, New Opportunities, New Year!

The last year was the most amazing year when I started a new life with many new experience and opportunities. It started with Sarah and Oli's engagement and a flurry of searching for wedding venues in January. January also saw me eventually coming off all the inhaler medications I had been on since my transplant - three of them three times a day - and coming off heart failure drugs at long last now my new heart had become stable after my transplant. Late January was the last time I had to have a bronchoscopy after having to have them nearly every week for months. Without all that came new freedom and we visited London to meet friends. We were pinching ourselves and I couldn't believe how much better I felt, how much I could suddenly manage and how far I could walk.

The year continued well and I'd thought I couldn't get much better, but I just kept on getting better and better. Rob and I did quite a few national and local media interviews over the course of the year to help raise the profile of transplant, organ donation and pulmonary hypertension including ones for Hertfordshire Life, Heart Matters (BHF magazine) and The Weekly News. We featured several times throughout the year in The Hertfordshire Mercury, The local Comet newspaper and on local radio Bob FM Home Counties. We also worked with NHSBT during National transplant Week and for their Christmas campaign and were featured on BBC Three Counties Radio, where we were given the opportunity to visit the radio studios in Luton. Speaking about organ donation and pulmonary hypertension is our way of trying to give something back for all the good fortune we have been given.

We seemed to get one wonderful opportunity after another and they just kept on coming. I enrolled on a writing course at the beginning of the year, so I could start writing my own articles for publication and one of my articles on my transplant was published in Cumbria magazine. I won a competition run by Woman and Home Magazine for writing a small article on 'Seizing the Day' and had a full style, makeover, photoshoot and interview published in the September issue of their magazine, plus a thousand pounds prize money for Papworth Hospital Charity. In October I was invited to speak at one of their reader events about my transplant and making the most of life. They were all interesting and new experiences to be part of and at the same time raise more awareness of organ donation and pulmonary hypertension to new audiences.

In July we were asked to take part in a launch of the government's 100,000 Genomes Project and were featured on all the main TV channels as well as getting to visit the Sanger Institute in Cambridge to see how the genetic testing machines work. We also had the wonderful and exciting opportunity to visit Downing St when the project was officially launched and this led to more local press interviews. At Downing St, I was pinching myself because I was able to walk at a fast pace up those famous stairs. It never ceases to amaze me what having my transplant has given me.

I had many small personal goals and dreams to work towards as I recovered including going for proper long walks once more. I set myself a challenge to walk around Tarn Hows in the Lake District in summer, but managed it in March. I wanted to get back in my kayak once more and managed this in June when I kayaked across Coniston Water once again, much to my delight. I travelled abroad once more, after nearly five years and went to Paris by Eurostar. After falling ill I had been deemed too unfit to fly and was unable to anyway being on the transplant list. I made my first flight abroad in October, just a short one to Amsterdam and this gave me confidence to make another dream come true and make a long haul flight to New York in December. It was wonderful to visit some new places.

To a lot of people these are just normal and everyday occurrences, but for me they are massive steps as they are all things I thought I would never be able to do ever again. Achieving these things have been a bonus and the icing on the cake, but the thing that still really amazes me is the fact that I can walk around normally again without using a wheelchair or measuring how far I have walked so I can make sure I can manage the walk back again. It is still special to bath and shower normally without worrying about medical equipment getting wet and it is amazing to run up steps. I run up stairs every day now just because I can! These are the things that healthy people take for granted, having had these taken away from me over the years and then suddenly getting them back is something that still astounds me even a year on.

Standing at the top of the Empire State Building at night time watching the lights of New York twinkling and fireworks going off over the Hudson River was a spectacular moment and more than a dream come true at the end of this year, but it still dazes me and fills me with awe when I walk around Tescos pushing a trolley and filling it with shopping. Extraordinary things and just ordinary things are equally amazing when you have a new chance of life. I had lost my independence and to have that back is a miracle. 

I'm not quite sure how 2015 is ever going to measure up to last year, but I have lots of plans and dreams already, so I'm hoping for it to be even better if that's possible. It is a big year for our family as we have Rose's 21st, Sarah and Oliver's wedding and our 25th wedding anniversary. These are all massive milestones for me to aim for, moments I'm looking forward to that I didn't dare ever hope to have. 

I'm also well underway with writing my book and one of my New Year resolutions is to get my first draft completed during the first part of this year. I'm also continuing with my writing course and hope to have more articles published during this New Year.

I'm not going for all the slimming and exercise resolutions, but after all the festivities I just plan to get back to eating sensibly and healthily and making sure I keep up my walking, yoga and exercise bike. I have got some new yoga DVDs for Christmas and a yoga mat, so I'm planning to step up the yoga a little. 

Of course, it goes without saying that our family will continue to raise awareness of both organ donation and pulmonary hypertension and in this respect the New Year has started well with an article in the Japanese Times, a Japanese national newspaper, about the UK's Genomics programme. The article features an interview I did with Kyodo news on genetic testing. 

I know that time has gone on now since my transplant and it is hard to gauge where I would be without it. I cannot thank my donor enough for the wonderful experiences and opportunities that I have had since being given my second chance at life. Without my donor none of them would have been possible including all the new hopes and dreams I have for this new year.

I wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year and hope that you have many plans and dreams that you can make come true. Here's hoping it is going to be a good one with more new opportunities and experiences.


  1. Part 3!!
    So that was an awful blow to us both. Have asked for a 2nd opinion, but guess it may agree with the 1st.
    So it's a sad end to our transplant hopes. But of course there are many sad stories.
    Wishing you health and happiness,
    Kath. X

  2. Oh Kath, I've only got the last bit of your message, but can see that things haven't gone as you had hoped. I am so sorry to hear this and hope that a second opinion can help you with a way forward x