Friday, 23 September 2016

Chariots of Fire

It's been a busy old week with my book 'Life is for the Living', as we've been working alongside Papworth Hospital Hospital Charity trying to raise funds at a couple of events held by the hospital. First up was the Annual Members Meeting held in the Papworth Village Hall, where we enjoyed talks on the latest developments at the hospital and the annual staff awards. 

Then on Sunday we were pleased to volunteer with Papworth Hospital Charity and help sell copies of 'Life is for the Living' on their charity stall in the marquee at the 'Chariots of Fire' event in Cambridge. Rob and I enjoyed a pleasant morning working alongside other volunteers and staff from the hospital.

Chariots of Fire is one of Cambridge's largest annual charity events. Teams of six each run a 1.7 mile course in relay format. The event is organised and managed by Hewitsons Charitable Trust. Each year the trust picks a charity to benefit from the event and this year Papworth Hospital Charity was chosen. 

It was an early start and quite chilly when we arrived at 7.20am, but a bacon butty and plenty of hot coffee soon warmed us. After breakfast, the runners and their supporters started arriving and everywhere busied up. There were quite a few Papworth teams taking part, including my transplant team and a team of Papworth transplant patients. We were able to say hello and chat with other patients, staff and their families and everyone was raring to go and hoping to raise lots of funds for Papworth Hospital Charity. 

The charity had pledged that all the funds raised would go towards supporting Papworth's DCD Heart Transplant Programme. The DCD heart transplant procedure is set to increase the number of lives saved among people waiting for heart transplant. Usually donors are brain stem dead but with this new DCD transplant procedure developed at Papworth in May 2015, hearts can be used from donors after a cardiac death. The procedure and equipment required to undertake this type of transplant is being funded presently by charitable funds and as it's been such a success so far in increasing the number of potential donors and heart transplants taking place. It's crucial to develop the programme and raise as much funding as possible to continue developing the programme, especially as there is still such a shortage of organ donors.  The DCD heart transplant procedure is being rolled out and undertaken by other heart and lung transplant centres in the UK and Papworth currently is a world leader in this field.

There's still time to donate to this most important cause, which is helping to address the shortage of hearts available for transplant and save lives.

Papworth Hospital charity - Chariots of Fire Event 2016

Here are some pictures of the organ care system equipment required to undertake this life saving procedure together with some of the team who've worked on developing it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


September has always been about new beginnings for me. I think it's the school year thing, developed from long, long ago during my own school years, built upon when my children went through their schooling and when I chose a career in teaching for many years. The excitement of a brand new start; the excitement of achieving and learning new things; the anticipation of how the year may turn out - the successes and failures to come and how the future might be shaped by them.

I can't help but think back to those years of teaching. Preparing during the summer break in readiness for a new class. The excitement of the first day back, hearing the excited chatter of the children in the playground waiting to start in their new class. A fresh start for us all. 

Then September has always been a prominent time since my illness - September was the month I was referred to Papworth Hospital; the month I found out I was live on the transplant waiting list and the month I finally received my transplant, so September has well and truly and literally become my month of new beginnings.

It's been quite poignant for me, therefore, that September is the month that Organ Donation Week is held by NHSBT and this year's campaign theme has been 'Turn an end into a beginning', which truly resonates for me. I've always believed that an end to something is a new beginning to something else. New beginnings is a strong theme which runs through my book 'Life is for the Living', deliberately so, as I believe organ donation is all about new beginnings.

I always hoped and believed that some kind stranger somewhere would give me another new beginning to what was looking like my very end. I always believed it would happen and I would be able to make that brand new start and pave myself a new way in life. 

I hope Organ Donation Week has been a successful week and that many more have signed up to the organ donor register. Three people still die each day while waiting for a transplant. That figure doesn't seem to ever change although the majority of people say they believe in organ donation, yet only about a third of the UK population have signed up. One of the biggest hurdles is family consent as many families are unaware of what their loved ones wishes are. It is so important to simply have a discussion with your loved ones about organ donation. An organ donation is more likely to go ahead if a potential donor's loved ones know their wishes. 

It is great we have a special week for organ donation, but in reality we need to keep on working hard to raise awareness about the benefits of organ donation the whole year round. I know only too well what a new beginning an organ donation can bring, how it transforms a life and the lives of the recipient's family and friends. I will be forever in debt to my donor and their family for my new beginning and forever grateful. 

This September has started off sunny and warm and the weather is turning hotter and hotter this week. The weather is often beautiful and sunny in September  somehow like a signal for brighter and better things to come in the following year. 

Here's to September and new beginnings and wishing everyone who is patiently waiting on the transplant list their very own new beginning very soon. 

This week's photos were taken in Mersea Island, Essex