Saved by a heart transplant – Bobby’s story

Bobby Doherty

Bobby Doherty has been able to have two children and get married, thanks to his heart transplant. He explains how he's still here, thanks to the BHF.

Bobby Doherty was born with mitral atresia, a condition where the mitral valve of the heart is narrowed or blocked, in September 1985. His mum was told he wouldn’t survive until Christmas. He proved the predictions wrong and never really felt restricted.

In 2008, Bobby got the flu. “The doctor said it tipped the balance and my heart started to go into failure,” he says. “My breathing was terrible. I couldn’t have a conversation. I felt tired all the time.”

Bobby had a Glenn shunt (an operation to improve blood flow to his lungs) and surgery to repair his valve, but it didn’t help. In December 2009, he was told a heart transplant might be the only option. “We were all scared and sad,” he says. “It seems very final, a transplant.”

I know they wouldn’t have been able to do my operation years ago

He was put on the waiting list at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. When his condition declined, he was admitted. Three months later, they found a donor.

Recovery took nearly six months, but now Bobby’s feeling great. “I haven’t looked back,” he says. “I started playing badminton, football, squash – anything I want.

“When you get really ill, your life gets put on hold, but within a year of the transplant, my first child, Charlie, was born. Then Becca and I got married, and now we’ve got a daughter, Ella, as well.”

There were some special guests at Bobby and Becca’s wedding: the mum and sister of his donor, Stephen. “I wrote a letter to them before I left hospital,” says Bobby. “I didn’t really think any more of it, but they wrote back and now we speak every week or so... A little bit of good has come out of it.”

Professor Yacoub and fellow surgeon Sir Terence English hugely improved the success rate of heart transplants in the 1980s. “I know they wouldn’t have been able to do my operation years ago,” says Bobby. “Everything the BHF does is fantastic.”  

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