"I've met my grandchildren thanks to a heart transplant"
Steve Syer knows he could have died 31 years ago if it hadn’t been for his heart transplant, carried out by Magdi Yacoub in 1984. With it, he’s seen his children turn into adults, and held six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren that he would never otherwise have met.
For more than 20 years he and his wife Chris have raised money for the BHF to say thank you. They’ve been a core part of the Cheltenham fundraising branch, and have been instrumental in raising more than £1.2 million pounds.
Steve, 72, said: “Supporting the BHF is really our way of putting something back into the system. Without a lot of the research that’s been done I would probably never have had my transplant.”
Steve needed a transplant because he suddenly developed viral cardiomyopathy. He was seriously ill and was in hospital for six weeks before receiving his transplant.
He says: “I was really lucky. I was told I was about 12 hours away from the coffin at that time. That’s an extra 31 years that I’ve had. I wouldn’t have even seen my children finish school.”
Steve still remembers the first time he met Sir Magdi. “I said to the nurse how will I know it is him? The nurse said, you will just know, he has a presence about him. And it was absolutely true. As soon as he stuck his head round the door we knew.”
Supporting the BHF is really our way of putting something back into the system
But Steve remembers Sir Magdi as “very humble”. “People would approach him at charity events and things like that and say ‘Thank you for what you’ve done for me.’ And he would say ‘That is no problem, I am only doing my job.’”
Steve was chairman of the transplant patients’ support group for 13 years, so used to meet Sir Magdi from time to time. “He always seemed to know exactly who you were and what had been done to you, without having to look at any notes. And he was very approachable – you could ring his office and speak to him if you needed to.”
As well as his surgery, Steve credits Sir Magdi with aiding his recovery. In the 1980s cardiac rehabilitation was in its infancy, but, says Steve, “The Prof had a relationship with people in Toronto. They were looking at the benefits of an exercise programme, so as I got stronger I did things like jogging and cycling, and that helped me.” For most of the time since then Steve has been able to “carry on as normal, I do whatever I want to do.”
Recently his kidneys have started to fail, which can happen as a result of the anti-rejection medication that transplant recipients take. He is currently on the kidney transplant waiting list.
Steve and his wife Chris were recently on holiday in Egypt and witnessed the admiration in which he is held by local people, as a result of his work with the Chain of Hope charity.
“They absolutely revere him. They couldn’t believe that I had actually had my transplant done by him.”
Grateful as Steve is to Sir Magdi, he will never forget his donor, who died in a road accident, or their family. He says: “I am forever thankful for my donor’s family who were able to think of other people.”