Heart transplant after heart failure: Bob's story

Bob Ruane, from Cheshire, was diagnosed with heart failure in 1998. In 2013, his heart failure worsened and he received a life saving heart transplant at the age of 56.

Bob Ruane

"The transplant has completely changed my life. In 1998 I started to get breathlessness and palpitations. I had an echo and they immediately admitted me to hospital with an enlarged heart. But after further tests it was decided I didn't need a transplant at that time.

After working all around the world for 15 years I eventually succumbed to more severe heart failure. I was in the Philippines when I fell seriously ill following a series of infections. I had to be medically escorted back to the UK.

I was bedridden. I had lost the ability to walk  I needed oxygen to breathe, I was discoloured and all my body hair fell out. I had to have a balloon pump in my heart to keep my heart beating. Unfortunately that meant I had to lie still completely in bed without moving at all. After about two weeks of that I got notification that a heart was available, so I got washed and shaved and ready for theatre. But it turned out the heart wasn’t good enough. By this time I was given a few weeks to live. I was quite uptight about what was going to happen. Fortunately another heart was available about a week later, in November 2013."

Surgery and recovery

"I went through about six hours of surgery. I had a bit of a problem surviving the first day; I was quite ill. The first six days I don’t really know about, I just had the most terrible nightmares: it was terrifying. But gradually I got better.

The medication is important – you have to make sure you take it properly and manage your life quite tightly

"I needed a bit of kidney dialysis because the ciclosporin was affecting my kidney function. They reduced my dose of ciclosporin and increased one of the other drugs and it has been better since then. I was released home after four weeks, and I was walking around after three or four months."

Improved quality of life 

“My quality of life now is excellent. I have no breathing difficulties. I walk 5km every day. I have managed a trip to Ireland – I want to do more travelling. It is marvellous, absolutely fantastic. 

“I take 25 medications a day now: three of those are for the transplant, the rest are to deal with side effects and my diabetes. The medication is important – you have to make sure you take it properly and manage your life quite tightly. You can’t just not take your medication one day.

"Your quality of life changes so much. It is a complete shift from one level to another. Before I couldn’t do anything.

“About a year after the initial diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy, my mother fell ill with a similar thing – it turned out her heart was enlarged, dilated cardiomyopathy was diagnosed. They have since done genetic tests and it turns out it’s an inherited condition – familial dilated cardiomyopathy. This was caused by a fault in the gene associated with muscle stretching. Members of my wider family can be tested for the gene and perhaps be able to treat the disease early, potentially avoiding major difficulties in later life."

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