I was watching the news and was told about the first heart transplant, which took place in Capetown,
South Africa on 3rd December 1967. Louis Washkansky was 54 years old and a greengrocer. The
operation was performed by Christian Barnard. Louis survived 18 days.
My dad thought science was interfering with nature and the natural course of life. This really stuck in my
Years later when I was 42 years old I started to feel tired and short of breath riding a bicycle to work. It
became harder and harder. I started walking part of the way and getting further behind over the weeks. I
started taking holidays as my work colleagues noticed I was sitting around not working. I was also hiding
this fact from my wife, Debbie, and would throw my tea out in the bin when she went to work because I
didn't feel like eating. I would buy KitKats instead for something to buy but wouldn't eat those either. One
day my friend Les felt peckish and fancied some chocolate. I told him he could have a KitKat if he wanted.
When he reached into my bag he discovered a whole bag of KitKats. He noticed that something was up
but didn't tell Debbie.
Debbie started to notice I was getting short tempered and snappy at her and the two boys. Debbie said
she'd had enough and asked me what was wrong as she noticed I was losing weight and looking pale. I
had to admit to it and agreed to go to the doctors. The doctor referred me to the hospital for tests. They
assessed me and sent me for a heart scan, which revealed my heart was running at 12%. They started
me on a course of tablets and medication.
Eventually I had to go to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to be assessed again to see if I needed a
heart transplant. After a while I had a pacemaker fitted. I wondered how the operation would be done? It
was done under local anaesthetic. Whilst I was at Freeman's a heart and lungs became available but
another patient was given them as they were a more suitable match and I was left waiting. I remained
there for a couple of days and was transferred back to Hartlepool.
I remember my friend Bob and his wife Janet came to see me on Thursday 21st November and was
shocked that he might never see me again as I was so ill. I told Debbie to go out for a drink with Bob and
Janet and a few friends at the local club. I settled down for the night and the next thing I knew I was being
awoken by a nurse. I remember I cursed her for it for waking me up. Then she told me a heart had
become available and I was being transferred back to the Freeman's Hospital as soon as possible.
Neil the co-ordinator, called Debbie at home at 1am in the morning. She put the phone down on him
because she didn't realise who it was as she was half asleep. She eventually got a taxi to the hospital to
meet the ambulance to transfer us to Freeman's. When we got there we were taken to a side ward and
everything was explained to me about the operation. I remained in hospital from 22nd November and was
discharged on 17th December. I had to get used to taking medication for the rest of my life.
It felt strange to be home after being in hospital for so long. It was good to get back to normal things like
being able to put my socks on and walking around without using a wheelchair, which I hated.
I have now survived my operation 7 years, I have seen my grandchildren being born and I thank Debbie
for all her love and support. If my dad could see me now he'd be very surprised.