Friday, 12 February 2016
Valentine's Day and a Memoir
It is February - the month for Valentine's Day. Say 'Valentine's Day' and your mind may conjure up hearts and love. Heart shapes are all around us at this time of year - in all the shop windows and dispays, on TV, in books, newspapers and magazines and many advertisements - they seem to be everywhere we turn. For me it's very poignant as nearly two and a half years ago a complete stranger gave me the new heart that I so very desperately needed to survive and changed my life forever. Heart shapes and symbols, Valentine's and giving will always be very significant to me.
I was lucky enough to receive new lungs too - it is quite a rare operation to receive both heart and lungs these days because of the shortage of organ donors. There are only on average around 5 or 6 heart and lung transplant operations now undertaken in the UK per year. It was Pulmonary Hypertension that caused me to need a new heart and new lungs - a rare and relatively unknown disease. So on diagnosis of this, I found myself in a battle to survive both a rare disease and a rare operation.
I hope the book can help raise awareness of both Pulmonary Hypertension and Organ Donation. My memoir gives my own perspective of what it is like to live with a rare, chronic and terminal illness, which is often misunderstood and what it is like to wait a long wait on the transplant list, when there is a chronic shortage of organ donors. I think it may resonate with anyone who suffers from the disease and anyone who lives with chronic or terminal illness or has been affected by the transplant process.
Most importantly, I hope it can show people what a miracle transplantation can be - especially in the light of the fact that three people still die each day on the transplant list in the UK because of the lack of organ donors. Hopefully it may encourage others to sign the organ donor register - already a couple of people have told me they've signed the register since reading my book and so soon after publication, so it's been well worth writing it already.
For me, it's always been a lifelong ambition and dream of mine to write a book one day and thanks to my generous donor I've been able to realise this dream - yet another one. This week when my first copies of the book arrived in the post it was most incredible to be able to say, 'I'm holding my dream in my hands!' My gift of a new life doesn't ever cease to amaze me.
It's been a therapeutic process for me to write a book, but if it can help someone else - perhaps to feel less isolated about what they are going through with an illness or perhaps to encourage someone who's waiting a difficult wait for a transplant - then once again it will have been worth every minute of writing.
For readers whose lives aren't or haven't been affected by any of these issues - my book is simply a story of an ordinary family finding ways to cope and overcome adversity; a story of love, human warmth and an extraordinary miracle.
I planned the publication of my book purposely for February and as near to Valentine's Day as possible, as it feels so apt and significant to complete and release it during this month of hearts and love. My mind turns automatically to my donor and their family - the kind strangers who unconditionally gave me my second chance to enjoy more time with my family and friends - all those I love.
I also think of all those that I've both loved and lost during this incredible journey - they will be forever in my heart and I'm indebted to many for the love and never-ending support they gave me. And I think of those who are still battling severe illness - those who still wait in hope for a cure or a transplant. Never lose hope - it is always there waiting in the darkest of corners when times are tough.
To all my friends and readers enjoy this weekend and happy Valentine's Day.
(Heart photos: urban-echoes.co.uk/ carrowmena.co.uk)