Heart transplant patient Bronwyn Jones – struck down by an everyday virus

Bronwyn image for webSeptember 7, 2017

The Trust has launched its organ donation campaign for 2017 this week (4 – 10 September) as part of Organ Donation Week.  

During the week the Trust is holding a three day information stand at King’s Mill Hospital. The stand will be set up in the King’s Mill Treatment Centre from Wednesday 6 September – Friday 8 September and will have information about organ donation, with a number of specialists and organ donation recipients on hand to speak to people about what a difference donating can make. The poster competition for 2017 will also be launched on Friday 8 September.

Heart donor recipient, Bronwyn Jones is now able to spend precious moments with her grandaughter thanks to organ donation, here she tells her story:

July 12, 2009 is a day that is etched on my mind. The day I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure.

Suddenly I was disabled, I felt singled out by illness. My life had changed forever.

I had been feeling breathless, tired, faint and dizzy for a while but these symptoms were not constant, they came and went and they were easy to explain away as other things.

Eventually, the likely cause was identified as a virus – possibly an everyday virus that just happened to affect my heart.

After being given the diagnosis, however, one of the biggest symptoms became depression and anxiety. My life was consumed by my illness. I lived with the constant fear of dying.

Over the course of the following year, my illness progressed until finally, 11 months after diagnosis, my heart failed completely and I was admitted to King’s Mill Hospital.

After examination at King’s Mill Hospital, it soon became clear that my only chance was to receive a new heart and I was transferred by ambulance - blue lights flashing all the way – to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

After a battery of tests, the doctors were soon explaining the next steps to me, my husband Eric and other family members.

I was a suitable candidate and was placed on the waiting list for a transplant. I was told I was number one on the list, because my need was so great.

By this time, I was extremely ill and in addition to my heart failing, my liver and kidney had failed.

I was drifting in and out of consciousness. A whole team of doctors and nurses was constantly monitoring me and my heart stopped twice during this period.

Within six days, a suitable heart became available.

It can feel like a long time from being told that an organ has become available to confirming the operation will go ahead. This is because doctors have to retrieve the organ, carry out extensive tests to make sure it is suitable and will give the patient the best chances of recovery and a long life after transplant.

My operation went ahead at 4am and lasted about four hours. I was one of the lucky ones. I had a text book recovery and was out of intensive care within four days.

Day by day I improved. Soon I was eating and up and about.

The first time Eric took me out in the wheelchair, is a day I will never forget.  

Out in the fresh air, I thought I was in heaven. Life suddenly never felt so good.

After being stuck in a hospital for six weeks in all, the feel of warm sunshine on my face and the warm September breeze was wonderful.

Within six months I was back at work and life began to return to normal. I feel I am going from strength to strength and life feels good.

I constantly think about my donor. I have made contact with his family and now know a little about him and his life.

I thank god every day for the wonderful gift of life that my donor gave me. Without him and his family, I would not be here today, my husband would be a widow and my children would have no mum.

I would urge anyone who has ever hesitated over signing the organ donor register to think again

Ask yourself - if you or a loved one needed a new organ, would you accept it. If the answer is yes, then you really should agree to become a donor. Sign up and – importantly – make sure your family knows and understands your wishes.

Joining the organ donation register

Joining the NHS Blood and Transplant Service’s Organ Donation Register is simple. Visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk and fill out your details. You can also register at the same time as you apply to the DVLA for a driving licence. Or you can telephone 0300 123 23 23.

The website has frequently asked questions and a myth-busting section to help explain exactly what joining the register means.

It also encourages people to talk to their relatives about their decision and how they can support your decision in the event of your death.