A Northern Ireland woman has been given a second chance at life and is recovering in hospital in England after receiving a new heart.
Just two days before her birthday and wedding anniversary tomorrow, Cathy McCracken was given the best possible present — the gift of life.
The Lisburn mother-of-two — who recorded her desperate wait for a new heart for the Belfast Telegraph — went through six hours of surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne yesterday morning.
Speaking as he prepared to travel to his wife’s bedside, her husband Les said: “The next 48 hours are crucial but I am delighted for Cathy that she has been given this chance.
“Cathy said she was petrified but she is very strong. She went into theatre at about 4am and was back in recovery at lunchtime. We’re looking forward to Cathy getting her life back and being able to do what she wants to do.”
Mrs McCracken was forced to put her life on hold at the age of 40. Doctors told her she needed a heart transplant and her case was so urgent, her condition so fragile, she would not be able to leave the hospital until a new heart was found.
She had to leave behind her family, including 18-year-old daughter Sarah-Louise, and son Daniel (8), in Northern Ireland while she received the necessary treatment to keep her alive.
Her life was thrown into chaos after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy — a disease of the heart muscle causing it to become so weak and enlarged that it cannot pump blood effectively.
Tragically, it was a medical term Cathy was already familiar with — the same condition claimed her mother's life at just 36.
Lynne Holt, transplant co-ordinator at the hospital, said: “I spoke to Cathy when she found out and she was very calm. They told her just after midnight that there might be a heart for her but she waited until it was confirmed at 4am before she rang Les because she didn’t want to stress him out.
“Of course, a family is in mourning now but all of the donor’s organs were offered so there are other families in addition to Cathy’s who lives have changed over the past 24 hours. There is a such a ripple effect with organ donation.”
To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, text SAVE to 84118, telephone 0300 1232 323 or log on to www.organdonation.nhs.uk. There are currently 287 people in Northern Ireland waiting for a transplant — eight of whom are children. On average, adults wait 184 days for a heart. About 1,000 people die every year in the UK while they are waiting for an organ transplant.