Three years ago, 63-year-old John Braidwood received a live-saving heart transplant. He has agreed to share his story with NCIC NHS FT to help raise awareness of the importance of having the conversation about whether or not you want to donate organs after you have died.
John said: “I am living proof that those conversations are necessary and well worth it. Because of a discussion that gave me a heart, I was able to attend my son’s wedding just nine months later.”
John, originally from Hamilton but now lives in Carlisle, has a wife, two children and two dogs. Always been sporty and even played Rugby for Scotland. However, John was born with a hereditary heart condition that causes the walls of the heart to thicken over time; sometimes so much it can cause the heart to stop.
John told us about his journey:
“At the age of 45, my condition deteriorated and after being a dentist at the Cumberland Infirmary for 36 years, I had to retire early 4 years ago.”
“After trying all sorts of pacemakers and such, I ended up at the freeman hospital and my only option was a heart transplant”
“I was in the freeman hospital for nine months continually, one day I asked the consultant how I was doing, and they said ‘we need to get you transplanted in soon, time is running out’.”
John had three near transplants before his actual transplant due to logistics and compatibility.
Jacqueline Newby, Specialist Organ Donation Nurse, NCIC said:
“We can prepare for a heart to match but the reality is, we can’t be certain until it’s been retrieved from the donor.
“Heart transplants are challenging for a number of reasons firstly is they need to be retrieved from the donor and in the recipient within a four hour window. Of course, within this window we need to transport it to the recipient location, and do the vigorous testing to make sure that its right for the recipient.
“This is the reason that John couldn’t leave the hospital for nine months. We needed him to be there, in place ready to receive his heart.”
Being on the urgent list, meant John needed a heart within six months and he waited nine. Fourth time lucky, John received his heart.
John’s donor was a young man who had a ‘what if’ conversation with his mother. Although that can be a difficult discussion to have, it is powerful as in it has saved John’s life and others.
Grateful to his donor family, John said:
“The young man and a discussion has given me and my family a second chance to live life to the max. I am living proof that those conversations really do make a difference.
“I now play golf three times a week and just recently climbed Hellvelyn. My friends call me “Count I’ll Be” because I always say yes to everything.
Every morning, I get up, draw the curtains, and say quietly to myself “Thank you.”
John’s daughter, who is a physio in Bermuda, and his son who lives in New York, both have the hereditary condition and are monitored by the freeman hospital through implanted devices.
Jacqueline Newby, Specialist Organ Donation Nurse: “Only 20% of the hearts donated are received by patients, the more people that donate would great increase the chances of someone else like John. Please have the conversation and leave your loved ones certain.”
Have a conversation with your loved ones about your wishes.
Go a step further a register them on the Organ Donation Register: