I have always been a sporty person who has been conscious of health and fitness. At any opportunity I would involve myself in some sort of sporting activity.
In August 1991 while playing a rugby match, I collapsed on the field. Fortunately one of the club doctors who was at the match felt my pulse, and suggested that I see a doctor the next week. He felt that there was reason for concern.
Doctor David Gillmer diagnosed me with Left Ventricular Cardiomiopathy which was possibly caused by exercising and training while I had flu and bronchitis. This was devastating news for me as I had to stop all forms of physical activity and I was then placed on a range of heart medication to control my condition. My work at the time involved a fair amount of strenuous activity and I unfortunately collapsed again on a construction site. This meant a career change for me which was rather stressful.
Over the next few years Dr Gillmer worked really hard at finding the perfect combination of drugs to alleviate the fainting episodes that I would experience. I tried to lead as normal a life as possible and continued to play Golf and managed to do moderate jogging as my exercise. I was blessed with two beautiful daughters and tried to not allow my condition to hinder any form of activity. I experienced multiple fainting episodes where I would collapse. This was terribly frightening for my wife and children. I had a mild stroke in November 2006 which was a huge setback. Dr Gillmer once again managed to ensure that my medication was changed to allow me to carry on as normal as possible.
I continued to experience episodes of ventricular tachycardia at random intervals. Unfortunately my heart continued to deteriorate and Dr Gillmer advised that I would need an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) to be inserted. At the same time we were told that there was no other choice for me but a heart transplant. Dr Gillmer consulted with Mr Kleinloog and together they decided that a heart transplant would be my only option. I was placed on the Organ Transplant waiting list in May 2012 and my defibrillator was inserted. This was a kind of “insurance” policy for me as it was able to regulate my heart beat if needed and if my heart stopped I would hopefully be shocked back to life. Thankfully this only happened once as it was a traumatic experience.
Once I was on the transplant waiting list, I was introduced to Cindy Goldie, the transplant co-ordinator at the time. I regard her as a guardian angel as she prepared me for what was to come. I was on the transplant waiting list for just over 4 years, during which time I experienced syncopal episodes more regularly. By this stage I was restricted to only being able to play golf and was forced to use a golf cart as walking a golf course was not possible for me.
During the 4 years of waiting for a new heart I had two ‘missed calls’ which meant that there was a possibility of a donor heart but unfortunately I was unable to receive them. This was an emotional rollercoaster but it was also a kind of preparation for us.
In February 2016 I experienced some severe episodes that caused me to be hospitalised and my heart was clearly failing. I was then in desperate need of a heart and my prayers were answered when I received a call one morning in August 2016. The ultimate gift that any person or family could offer was bestowed on me. The respect and gratitude that I have for my donor and his family cannot be put into words. My family and I will be eternally grateful.
I am also incredibly grateful to the doctors and nurses who were involved with the transplant operation and my recovery. Once again, words cannot explain my amazement at their skill, care and dedication.
Each day I am thankful for the opportunity of a second chance at life. I did not think that I would ever be able to ride a bike, run again or to walk my daughters down the aisle. All of this has become a reality for me. After 4 months post-transplant I was back to road running and I rode a bike for the first time in 15 years. All of this is thanks to a selfless Organ donor.
Please consider REGISTERING as an organ and tissue donor. Remember to TALK to your family about your decision so that they know your wishes and of course SHARE your decision with others to encourage them to do the same. #BeAHero