Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Hertfordshire Mercury and Herts and Essex Observer Community Awards

I was very privileged to be invited to attend the Hertfordshire Mercury and Herts and Essex Observer Community Awards on Monday evening, as I had been nominated for an 'Unsung Hero' award because of my campaigning to raise awareness of organ donation and was one of the finalists. 

Rob and Sarah attended with me and we had a wonderful time starting with a drinks reception, where we were made to feel really welcome and then we were spoiled with a lovely three course dinner before the awards ceremony began. We were entertained by a very talented guitarist and singer - Roxy Searle - and we enjoyed some magical tricks during dinner. 

There were a range of categories that people had been nominated for: Carer of the Year, Young Achiever, Unsung Hero, Volunteer of the Year, Good Friend, Lifetime Achievement and Courageous Young Person. It was amazing to hear of all the various accomplishments and achievements that everyone had made - especially those of the children - everyone's stories were truly inspiring. 

All our stories were shared with the audience and I was pleased that the presenters stated some of the facts surrounding organ donation - especially informing the audience of the fact that three people die each day waiting for a transplant. 

was delighted to be awarded a highly commended 'Unsung Hero' award and received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates too. The winner of my category was a gentleman who suffers with muscular dystrophy and he had set up a foundation which offers experience days for other muscular dystrophy sufferers. 

One of the loveliest things about the whole evening was that we were told to just sit back, relax and enjoy ourselves and we were able to do just that. It was a very memorable and special evening and I think we all came home feeling very relaxed and pampered and that it had been a total pleasure to have been included in the event. 

Of course, the unsung heroes in my world are those that sign up to the organ donation register and those that have given the gift of life. My donor will always be my unsung hero.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Gift of Life

After watching the news this week, the most poignant events that have overridden everything are the terrorist attacks and developments unfolding in Paris. I think this week has brought home to everyone how fragile life can be and just how much we should value every day. It's been shocking to see just on the TV and the thought to have been there amongst it is unimaginable. Paris is a place I love and I have so many happy memories of wonderful times there - it's difficult to associate this violence with such a beautiful and vibrant city.

It's beyond imagination that there are people who have so little value for life - both their own and the lives of others. There are no words to describe the gulf between these militant few and the majority of us ordinary people just wishing to live our lives peacefully. I think of the contrast between our medical staff who fight hard every day to save lives like mine and then those who recklessly destroy it with no care or thought -there isn't a bridge that can cross it. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Paris and everyone affected by the destruction there this week. 

I have had a few clinic visits recently and at my latest one this week was told my new heart and lungs are in pristine condition - so I was thrilled and delighted at that. I'm still juggling problems with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and now the latest problem is high cholesterol. These have been caused by my immunesuppressant drugs so there's been quite a bit of changing medication and blood tests going on to ensure that things are kept in the best possible order. I was supposed to have an infusion  to help my bones because of osteoporosis, which is another side effect of the drugs, but they couldn't go ahead with it as it's too damaging for my kidneys, so I've been given another oral drug to try and help this instead. It all seems to be all about juggling the medication to keep us patients in optimal condition and I'm pleased I have such a knowledgable team of medics looking after me.

These are all problems that I was made aware about before my transplant and they are all very common amongst transplant patients. It's always been a case of swapping one set of problems for another, but with the hope of having a much better quality of life. My transplant has certainly given me that and I try and value all that my donor has given me every day. To hear the consultant say that my heart and lungs are in pristine condition is a pretty wonderful and encouraging thing. It always brings it home to me how life is so very precious.

A few weeks ago I was nominated for an 'Unsung Hero' award for my local paper's - the Hertfordshire Mercury -  Community Awards. My nomination was for promoting awareness of Pulmonary Hypertension and Organ Donation. It's something of an honour, although the real unsung heroes are my donor, their family and the medical teams that fought so hard to keep me alive. Because of my nomination, the paper did a feature about me and my transplant, so I was delighted that PH and organ donation made it in the papers once more. That's what it's all about for me - raising awareness in the hope that it may help someone else one day - in the same way I've been helped.

I had the wonderful news this week that I am one of the finalists, so once again I'm delighted. Next week we are off to the awards ceremony, which will be held at Hanbury Manor in Ware. I'm delighted because hopefully the causes of PH and Organ Donation will have another mention and to another new audience at the awards ceremony. It's not important to me about winning - it isn't about winning at all - just important that there will be another mention of these causes that are dear to my heart. There will be a drinks reception, dinner and then the awards ceremony, so it will be a lovely event to take part in. It will be a privilege and I'm looking forward to it.

It's been a week that's highlighted just how much life is so precious and needs to be enjoyed and embraced to the full. The gift of life is the most ultimate gift we have.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Ten Thousand Steps and a Dog

When we went away recently I bought a Fitbit HR Charge at the airport, so I could have an idea just how far I was actually walking while sightseeing. It's turned out to be quite a good gadget because it measures the amount of steps you make, how far you've actually walked, how many steps or stairs you've climbed, your heart rate, calories burned and even how well you sleep. You can also input your calorie intake and the water you've drunk if you want to, although I haven't bothered too much with this as I don't want to start becoming obsessed with what I eat.

Always concsious about my fitness these days and working on becoming fitter, I've found it really useful. It's also given me an insight into my sleeping patterns, which are quite unsettled because of the immunosuppressant drugs I have to take. 

On holiday we were walking an average of 12,000 steps a day and when I came back I felt really healthy and well with all the exercise and fresh air, so I've tried to aim towards walking 10,000 steps a day and go out in the fresh air as much as possible. On some of the lovely autumn days we've had this has been reasonably easy, but now we seem to be having those dismal and, at the moment often windy and wet, November days -  it feels more of a struggle.

I still have my exercise bike, which I haven't used too often since my recovery, as I do find it boring and tedious compared to walking outside in the fresh air accompanied by my camera, seeing the wildlife and plants. I'm back using it a little more now though, but it's difficult to be motivated with it any more. I use my WiiFit too and do the step activities on there as well as the yoga exercises. I love the yoga and try to do that as much as I can. I can be a bit wobbly with some of the yoga poses though because of my drugs, one of them makes me shaky, so often the trainer on the WiiFit keeps telling me my balance is bad! 

I love it when I walk Alfie, Sarah's and Oli's working cocker spaniel and when I dog sit and have him for the day, I find it's more than easy to break my target of 10,000 steps and more - it makes me go out in all weathers. Today we've been out together a few times, one of them a long walk and not only have I been walking, but just controlling him on the lead and throwing his ball feels good for strengthening my arms - they are still a bit weak even two years after my transplant. 

For quite a while now we've been thinking about having a dog again, it's 21 years since we've had a dog, but I think it will help me become fitter and motivate me to be outside in the fresh air when the weather isn't so good. I believe that exercise is more enjoyable if you can chose something you love doing rather than force yourself to do things that feel tedious.

At weekend we went to see some cocker spaniel puppies and we fell in love with them all, but there was one that stood out as 'the one' for us. Hopefully we will be picking him up in a few weeks time, as he's too young yet to leave his mother and the rest of the litter. Watch this space, hopefully he's coming soon!