In about 1990 while living in Cape Town I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and faulty left value. I was put on medication for my heart and the water retention I was experiencing and I went for regular check-ups. Thirteen years later, in 2003 my husband and I moved to Margate as we had purchased an Ice Cream Factory, and all was still going well.
I had the opportunity in early 2005 to go to England for 5 weeks to visit my brother and son. It was a wonderful holiday and I was able to keep up with everyone. However by June 2005 I was fatigued, battling to breathe and not eating much. I was finding things much harder. My visit to the specialist saw me taking another water tablet and looking for a cardiologist. I saw Dr Kevin O’Connell, a cardiologist at the time at Westville hospital in July and the decision was to fit me a pacemaker. I had the pacemaker fitted but sadly it was too late and the heart too enlarged and tired. I spent a number of weeks in Westville Hospital getting weaker when at the beginning of September my family met Dr Robby Kleinloog and were advised that I needed a transplant, soonest. I don’t remember much of those days, but it was very pleasant to meet Cindy Goldie (transplant coordinator). I also know that Dr Kevin got authority to try a new drug that was on the market which bought me time.
I have been truly blessed as I only waited two weeks on the transplant waiting list before I received my heart towards the end of 2005. I was however very weak afterwards as I had been in hospital for a long spell. I know that Cindy asked Barry (my husband) if he would cope if took me home, as I needed assistance with everything. Before requiring a new heart, I didn’t know much about organ donation. The knowledge that I needed one changed my life and obviously my knowledge about it.
Up until my transplant I felt that I ran as normal a life as possible helping my husband, Barry, run our business. I believe I have coped very well and carried on as normal. Sadly Barry passed away in 2017, but he was very sick and I am ever grateful that I was able to nurse him for two year. I have also seen one son married and have a beautiful little granddaughter, and I still run my business. All this would not have been possible without my donor.
I pray that all South Africans would consider being an organ and tissue donor, and if they do consider it please ensure your families are aware of your decision. So many people can be saved and have their lives improved through the amazing gift of organ and tissue donation.
I give thanks all the time to God and the Donor Family and love talking about my experience. I am ever grateful.
So if you haven’t already, please start the conversation about organ and tissue donation, register and share your decision with family and friends. You could be responsible for saving or repairing lives one day.