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I’m so grateful for this heart transplant... it’s amazing to be given this chance


New start: Cathy McCracken is recovering well after her life-saving heart transplant, but can’t wait to get home and celebrate

New start: Cathy McCracken is recovering well after her life-saving heart transplant, but can’t wait to get home and celebrate

Lewis Arnold

New start: Cathy McCracken is recovering well after her life-saving heart transplant, but can’t wait to get home and celebrate

The doctors have told me I could be going home in a matter of weeks and I can’t wait. It’s four weeks since I got my new heart and it has flown by.

I don’t know where the time has gone. I am fed up though, I’ve been in hospital for three months now, I feel like I’ve been here forever and know every last inch of this hospital.

It was such a surprise when I found out they thought they had a heart for me, because I felt like I had been waiting such a long time. I woke up at about 1.30am to go to the toilet and while I was up I asked for a drink of water. I was supposed to be ‘nil by mouth’ in case the operation went ahead, so they had to tell me then.

They said they had a heart and it was looking good. The transplant team were looking at it but they wouldn’t know for sure until about 4am. I didn’t want to tell anyone until it was definite so I lay on in bed and dozed a bit while they came and took bloods from me for tests to make sure I was a match with the donor.

I was trying not to get too excited. I had been in this position before only for the operation not to go ahead, so I didn’t want to get too worked up.

My husband Les was at home as well, so I didn’t see any point in getting him all in a tizzy over nothing so I waited to ring him. There was nothing he could do at that time of night anyway.

They came back later and told me to get showered and ready for theatre and I started to get nervous then. I rang Les but he didn’t answer, so I had to ring my daughter Sarah-Louise. I just told them I had got my heart and I was going into theatre, so my phone would be switched off. I know it was a big operation but I wasn’t really worried about that. To be honest, I was more scared I would wake up from anaesthetic and they would tell me the transplant hadn’t gone ahead, because I know that has happened before when it turned out the organ wasn’t good enough.

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I just remember them sticking loads of needles in me and how much that hurt because they couldn’t find any veins.

Apparently the operation went really well but I don’t really remember the first 36 hours after it because of the morphine I was on. I am surprised at how little it hurt. I have a 10in scar running down my chest but it is healing really well. My arms were black and blue from them sticking needles in me, but Les couldn’t believe how well I looked after going through such serious surgery. I think it is because I had a bit of colour back in my cheeks for the first time in a long time.

My children Sarah-Louise and Daniel were able to see me in ICU after a few days, which was great. I think it put their minds at rest because they saw me sitting up and joking. I didn’t feel so good to begin with, but I feel a lot better now. It was my birthday just after the operation and I didn’t feel like celebrating then, but I’m up and walking around the hospital. I can’t wait to get home and get settled in and spend some time with my family. I’m not really thinking much further than that.

I know a little about the donor. I think the person was in the 40s or 50s. I had said I would rather I would get a heart from someone closer to my age instead of a teenager. I don’t know anything else, though. It’s too early for me; apparently some people wait years before they ask for information.

Les always says people who have been through a transplant are special but I don’t agree. I think it is the donors and their families who are special because they are the ones who allow the transplants to happen. It’s amazing I’ve been given this chance and I’m so grateful to the donor and their family.


The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Transplant Sport UK (TSUK) to encourage

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