Counselling after a heart transplant: Trevor’s story

Talking to a counsellor is one method that can help tackle depression. After his heart transplant, Trevor, 57, from Lincolnshire, found it helped him to feel more positive about the future.

Trevor Hall

“I spent 22 difficult weeks on the ‘urgent’ heart transplant list. On the fourth attempt I got a matched heart. But after the surgery, I was told my kidneys would likely need dialysis for life, and I would be in hospital for 12 hours every week. I felt psychologically like I’d been hit by a bus.

I’d read about the risk of post-transplant depression, but thought I’d never feel that way, and people who did weren’t grateful enough. Post-transplant, I realised how easily you can slip into this state.

As soon as I entered hospital, I was offered counselling. I thought I’ll just be in the ward, bored, so it was a good way to spend an hour.

A mistake a lot of men make is thinking talking to their partner is enough. But it’s completely different when you don’t know the person

A mistake a lot of men make is thinking talking to their partner is enough. But it’s completely different when you don’t know the person. For 30 minutes I’d talk to my counsellor about my condition, relationships, fears, hopes and frustrations, then we’d meditate, discuss how I was feeling now and set a task to work on.

My counsellor asked me to write a positive image of the future. I was in hospital, with tubes attached to me, and physically a wreck. A positive future was hard to imagine. But I imagined I was gardening and my granddaughters would visit and run over to me. I had about a two per cent belief it would come true.

But my kidneys gradually improved. I started to think: ‘I can do some gardening, my granddaughters can still visit’. Maybe I could go on holiday and go to a dialysis centre in Devon or Cornwall. The human spirit starts to think maybe you can make a life of some kind.

Now I’m off dialysis, go for long walks and go to the gym. The future I was sceptically picturing has come true. I would tell anyone who feels they’re struggling to try counselling. You can always try a session or two and stop if it’s not helping. What have you got to lose?”

About counselling

Counselling is a one-on-one confidential talking therapy, where a trained counsellor helps you understand the problems underlying your depression and unhelpful thinking processes, such as self-criticism, that can prolong depression. Counselling is recommended by national health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and often starts with six one-hour sessions. 

How to find a counsellor

  • Speak to your GP or contact your council to find counselling services near you.
  • Find a counsellor at counselling-directory.org.uk or call 0333 325 2500.

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