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Waiting For Transplant
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Charlotte Jane Tate

My heart transplant was on the 21/22nd of July 1994
as they started the operation at midnight.

 Charlotte TateBefore I was born my dad was dying slowly of a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I was born in 1972 named Charlotte Jane Rogerson. My dad died 5 months later. He was never offered any help as there was nothing they could do, he had a rare disease and that was the end of it. His mum died also and so did his brothers and sisters all at a young age.

For as long as I can remember I always seemed to be visiting doctors and hospitals. When I was 14 I went into hospital for a angiogram and was put on some tablets and told I had a bad heart but did not feel any different to any of the other children at school apart from having to wear glasses and been over weight.

I went back to school and carried on as normal as possible but did not take part in school games and started to play the violin instead but for some reason was made to take part in the cross country trials. When I was 17 I went to a further education college to do a pre nursing course as this was all I ever wanted to do. I finished the course but did not get on the nursing course I wanted so I became a dental nurse and hated it. I then became a nanny but decided it was not for me and worked in various other jobs.

When I was 18 I went to see a doctor at the local hospital and he said there was nothing wrong with my heart so there was no point coming back and took me off my medication.  I then went to work in a nursing home as I had worked in many others whilst studying. Four months into the job I started to feel tired I was working 72 hours a week as the home said they would sack people if they were not willing to do the work as there was plenty more to do the job. I went to see the GP as I did not feel right he said I was just working to hard. I went back to work and found it hard to keep up with the 12 hour shifts and the heavy demand of the work load. I kept going back to the doctor but he said he did not know what was wrong so sent me to have a chest x-ray. After having the x-ray I was sent for immediately. I told work who refused to let me have the time off. When I explained to the clinic they said I had to come back to see them as they had found something on the x-ray so I asked a friend to swop a shift.

The clinic told me I had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which I said I knew about, they said this was ok and they would send me for a ECG in a few months time. I went back to work and noticed that I was putting on weight even though I was not eating as I felt sick and constantly had indigestion.

One morning I went to work and felt really tired. I asked the matron of the home if I could go home as I did not feel well. she said that I could not keep taking time off like this as it was not fair on the other staff. She then said I could go to the doctors as long as I was back within a couple of hours. She reminded me that the company could not tolerate staff who took time off. She said another member of staff had been hit by a car and broke their leg but she thought this was no reason not to come into work.

I went to the doctor again who said he did not know what to do but as I was blue around the lips that I should go to casualty. I walked the 2 miles home as I did not drive and got to my nanas who had taken me in some years before as my parents had moved away some years before to Ireland. We both went to the local casualty department in a taxi.

At the Hospital
 When I arrived the triage nurse took me straight into a cubicle and suddenly lots of nurses and doctors were trying to get my blood pressure, I told the doctor I had not felt well for a few weeks, they then found me a bed on a medical admissions ward till a bed became available on another ward. Whilst waiting on the ward two elderly ladies were having trouble with opening the packaging on there food so they asked me to help them as they said I looked the fittest of them all. Eventually i was moved on to the cardiology ward were i explained my symptoms. I suddenly realised i had not gone back to work so i rang them up and told them i was in hospital . The matron said she would see me on duty in the morning, I said i did not know if this was possible she said she would see me in the morning.

More Waiting
The rest of the day was spent by having various tests, The next day a consultant i had seen when I was 14 came to my bed to tell me that i had an enlarged heart and needed to go to a hospital in London to have a heart transplant and then left. My uncle who was also my god father was visiting me at the time and he looked as shocked as I was. When he had gone I went into the toilets and shut the door and sat on the floor I felt numb and could not stop crying.

After that I had more tests and was seen by a counsellor to ask if I wanted a transplant. I did not really believe this was happening. The only person I knew was a boy called Ben who needed a transplant that was on the That's Life programme.

All my family were very supportive and my friends were brilliant. My boyfriend was on a course at the time and when he walked on the ward to see me I had just an Angiogram and was laid flat. (At the angio the doctor said my heart was very enlarged and I only had a short time left).

 There was at least 12 people around my bed. I had asked my nana to not tell him what was wrong as I did not want him to leave the course as it was important for his work. When I told him I felt terrible as all these people were around my bed.

The next day I remembered that I should have rang work , I rang and spoke to the matron and apologised for not ringing but said I had to have a heart transplant, her reply was when are you having it. I explained that I needed to wait for a donor she said that this was not good enough, she said she would pass on my news to the other staff.

The next day I received a letter at my hospital bed to tell me I was sacked , the nurses on the ward could not believe this had happened. I stayed in hospital a few more days and was seen by a surgeon from the hospital in London called Mr Andrew Murday who said that he would except me on the transplant list. 

I went home after this to wait for the call, I was given a pager and patiently waited at home. Most nights I did not sleep as I worried if I went to sleep I would never wake up. Some nights I imagined that things were moving I thought I was going mad, I must have scared my nana as she was in the next room. One evening I felt unwell so I was admitted back to the ward , it was my birthday two days later and my boyfriend proposed and the nurses on the ward got me a cake.

I left hospital again and was invited to go to St Georges in London to look around the hospital. To prepare me for the transplant. My fiancé came with me. The hospital was very nice and I met the transplant team and a patient called Wendy who had just had a transplant I could not believe how normal she looked, I was expecting something terrible but she looked like just a normal patient.

Five weeks on the transplant list
One evening I went to a cousins play at her school with my aunty ( God mother), Uncle, Nana and Phil my finances. As we were waiting for the play to start by pager rang in my nanas handbag she had just reached in her bag to get her glasses to see the play so I thought she had just knocked it. It went off again so I went to find a phone and rang the hospital in London. The transplant coordinator answered and said they had found a good match for me and that she would arrange an ambulance to pick me up.

My aunty and uncle stayed to watch the play as their daughter was in the play and then followed us in the ambulance. The drive from Leeds to London was strange it was like i was going on a journey in a film , The ambulance crew that arrived were due to finish their shift but as all the other crews were busy they came to take me. On the way we ran out of petrol and could not find a garage that took their form of payment. In the end a police car met us with a slip to give permission to buy petrol. The police car followed us part of the way with flashing lights but we kept loosing them as they were going faster than us as the ambulance was only allowed to go so fast for safety. We were then met by other police cars and could here them all talking to each other. When we arrived at the hospital it was 11 pm at night I was asked to have a chest x-ray and had a bath in some solution it all seemed to happen so fast.

The Operation
The operation took 6 hours but I do not really remember much for at least three days, I was rather confused and kept asking for my family to bring me things which I never used and found them at the back of my locker. After a day on intensive care and a high dependence ward I went on a normal ward and stayed there for two weeks were I went to physio and various clinics and other tests. For the third week I stayed in a flat with my nana and phil till he had to go back to work, who looked after me and was visited by family at the weekend.

The day I went home felt strange I felt I was alone even though I had people around me . I missed the security of hospital . I went back for check up  every two weeks to London sometimes with nana and other times with Phil and sometimes on my own in a hospital car and when I felt better by train and tube. The check up consisted of biopsy's which were not very pleasant but where vital to determine rejection. I am very lucky as I have never had this happen which I hear is very rare . At the start I was put on a lot of anti rejection drugs and put on a lot of weight and my face resembled a hamster. My family and friends said I did not look any different, they were just being kind.

I eventually contacted the local paper about losing my job as I felt I had been treated unfairly and went to a tribunal but they said that had not sacked me despite having proof of the letter telling me I was sacked. I also lost the tribunal as I had only worked for them for 7 months and for some reason was not able to win.

Two months after my transplant I got a job working for a temp agency but as I needed time off to go to clinic appointments it did not work out. I then worked for the RSPCA as a telephonist but the boss was not very nice to me as she felt i was to slow at my job even though they were been given money by a government scheme to allow for me getting back into work. After a year I went to work for the DHSS as an admin assistant. After a year of this I missed my nursing and wanted to do my nurse training but could not afford to live on the small pay and especially after living on a rubbish wage and having no money when ill. I carried on doing office work and in my spare hours working as a health care assistant for a local hospital.

I took part in my first transplant games in Wales which felt special to me as my donor heart was said to have come from Wales. I took part in the 3k walk, 100 metre run and the long jump, I was rubbish at these events but it was great to take part. The other members of the team were very friendly as well as their friends and family were an inspiration and made Phil and I welcome.

The Wedding
In 1997 I got married to Phil on princess Diana's funeral , we had planed the wedding two years before . The year after Phil got a promotion in Northumberland with his job so we moved there. I still carried on going to London for yearly checkups but in 2001 they unit closed down. I went to local hospital but did not find them as good as my last hospital, I had finally started my nurse training and they did not agree I should work even though there was nothing wrong with me. There after care was very strict and would have meant me going to the hospital most of the time. I eventually went to a hospital in Glasgow as even though it was a bit out the way it was the best think I had ever done. As my surgeon Mr Murday who did my transplant also worked there it some how made me feel safe. All the other staff were very helpful and said there was no reason why I should not work and carry on with a normal life.

Now 8/7/2003
Today is my birthday I am 31 today. It is 9 years since my transplant and in two months time I become a staff nurse . I have just been offered a job in a local hospital on an assessment unit for the elderly. I admit the road through transplant has not been an easy one. There are sometimes when I feel different to other people my age but then other times I feel just the same. When I first had the transplant I was told maybe I would live another year. Nine years on I am here to tell the tale and hope to live till my 50s

My dream has always been to become a nurse and in two months time I will be given the chance.
I wish to thank MR Murday (GOD) For giving me the chance to carry on my life
I wish to thank my family, friends and Phil my husband for their support
The biggest thanks goes to the family who gave me their daughters heart as with out their help I would not be living out the dream and writing this story.
My email address is charlottetate123@hotmail.com

Charlotte Tate

John Fisher
Heart Transplant July 2000
John Fisher

"I feel we should talk about our transplant, raise some positive awareness and therefore give others the same chance we have had."

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