John Fisher marked 15 year’s post-heart transplant and his 54th birthday this year by running the London Marathon for the 15th consecutive year.
Aged 32, Doctors discovered a serious leak in my aorta and I was rushed into the operating theatre the very next day to have a valve replacement. Unfortunately, my aorta continued to leak after the operation and I was soon told that a heart transplant was my only option. I was officially put on the list in December 1999.
“Over time, I got sicker and sicker. I was existing rather than living, taking ten minutes to walk 13 steps, wearing an Oxygen mask and struggling to talk or feed myself without feeling exhausted. Although my family were incredibly supportive, it was no life.
“Finally, the hospital rung on the 30th July 2000 and told me they had a match. I was so nervous and by the time me and my wife arrived, I was terrified. It was only when BHF Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub walked in with his team in tow that I knew I was in with a real chance of surviving – he’s one of the best in his field.
“Two days later, I was keen to get back on my feet. That’s how my relationship with the BHF started. I became the charity’s Heart Transplant Advisor and worked closely with them on their opt-out Organ Donation policy.
“Despite feeling fine, it was easy for people to wrap me up in cotton wool, encouraging me to take it easy. That’s largely why I’ve taken on so many sporting challenges, like the BHF’s London to Brighton Bike Ride and the London Marathon.
“I always look forward to the iconic Marathon. The thought of people waiting for the phone call that saved my life, like I had, spurs me on - I want people to know that there is hope. I also run for my donor, as a way of saying thank you – he donated five of his organs in total.
“My experience has completely changed my outlook on life. I may have turned 54 on the day of the London Marathon, but my younger heart is still going strong. Without my donor, my family and the amazing work of the BHF I wouldn’t be alive today.”
A heart transplant is when a diseased heart is replaced by a healthy human heart from a donor. In 2014-2015 there were 181 heart transplants at seven hospitals nationwide.
A heart transplant surgery may be considered if you have severe heart failure and if other treatments are not managing to control your symptoms.
But because there are not enough suitable and available donor hearts, not everyone who could benefit from a transplant can have one. Currently, only 8 out of 10 people receive the heart transplant they need in the UK and 1,200 a year die in need of an organ.
The BHF is backing a campaign calling for all UK governments to introduce an opt-out organ donation system where everyone is considered to want to donate their organs unless they state otherwise. We are also continuing to fund research to improve the success rates of heart transplantation.
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