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Trish Byng
Heart Transplant 27th June 1984
But Is No Longer A Transplant Patient

Trish Byng & JohnOn June 27th 1984 I had a Heart Transplant, I won't bore you with too much of my medical history but needless to say before the op I was very ill indeed! I had contracted a virus which affects the muscle of the heart, viral cardiomyopathy, this basically meant that the left ventricle of my heart was a floppy bag unable to contract and beat efficiently. I had made some initial progress from my original illness but 9 months down the line I was running into problems, even the slightest exertion made me breathless and I felt very unwell.

Fortunately I was under a wonderful Cardiologist in Portsmouth, Dr Colin Morgan, who had sent another of his patients to Harefield Heart Hospital where he had successfully undergone heart transplantation. Like most people a heart transplant wasn't something I had ever considered, after all I was only 37 and transplantation was still very much a rarity then. However, one thing I did know was that I didn't want to die, and being a nurse, I realised I was in serious trouble and unlikely to get any better and stood every chance of getting considerably worse! Even given all that it was a tremendous shock when Dr Morgan suggested referring me to Harefield and said he would arrange it post-haste.

I arrived at Harefield with my husband Peter, and like many others we were amazed that such pioneering work was being done, in what was then, quite an old fashioned and even dilapidated hospital. I underwent all the usual assessment tests but the one that sticks in my mind was the visit to the psychiatrist, something that I don't expect happens now. Amongst the many things he asked me was to count backwards from 100, subtracting 3 and, whether the sun or the moon was closest to the earth, two tasks which I remember failing dismally to do. I think at the end of his consultation he concluded I was sane but thick! The other thing that remains an abiding but shadowy memory is the late night visit from Sir Professor Magdi Yacoub. He appeared by the side of my bed sometime during the night and very gently explained that I had no other options but a heart transplant and that I would be operated on in the next few months.

We returned home to Portsmouth the next day more than a little shocked and dazed. The following day however, I apparently took a turn for the worse, I remember being stretchered down our stairs by the ambulance men and that really is the last conscious memory I have until about three days after my transplant. It was left to my husband and family to do all the worrying, I had sensibly opted out! Suffice it to say I was very seriously ill, I believe I was in hospital for 2 weeks or so and getting worse all the time. Then one night my poor husband was taken aside and told I might not last the night but if they could stabilise me they would transfer me to Harefield, at this stage a heart had not been found.

The next morning, accompanied by a doctor and two senior nurses I was on my way to Harefield. I later learnt that the nurses had sensibly taken some travel sickness tablets but the doctor had said he didn't need them. This was something he quickly learnt to regret as half way through the trip a call came to say that they were to get me to Harefeild ASAP and being in the back of an ambulance driven at speed can cause the strongest of constitutions to feel nauseous! Meanwhile, Peter who was driving ahead of the ambulance to show them the way, was horrified when the sirens and blue lights started up. 

He had no idea why but assumed I had become even worse. Still being the sort of man he is he didn't panic but increased his speed. On arrival at Harefield we were met by a doctor who said I was being taken straight to theatre as they had found a heart for me! The rest as they say is history. As I mentioned earlier I was completely unaware of all this, I.T.U passed me by as did the transfer to the ward although I was obviously breathing on my own at this stage and was probably aware on a sub-conscious level. I suppose my mind finally decided it could cope and I gradually became aware of my surroundings. Oddly enough I was not at all perturbed to find myself in hospital and remember asking if I had my transplant and on being told I had, just felt relieved. The mind is indeed a wonderful thing.

I was in hospital for about a week and then we moved out to a flat in Harefield village, coming in every day as an out-patient. After a further 3 weeks we were told I could go home, I remember feeling both happy and absolutely terrified! Leaving the security of Harefield was a big step but as soon as I reached home I was fine. The major turning point for me, in truly getting back to a normal life, was about a year after my transplant. We had gone to Edinburgh for the Transplant Games and I was amazed to see all these people running, playing tennis, swimming and generally behaving as if there was nothing wrong with them. 

Then in the evening I was even more amazed at the fervour with which they threw themselves into the dancing and drinking activities!!! It was then that I think I stopped being a transplant patient and became someone who had just happened to have had a transplant. It was time to get on with my life!

So here we are 17 years ( on June 27th 2001 ) down the line, I have been very lucky in having no major health problems, of course there has been the odd blip and like all long term transplants I suffer from the side effects of the drugs, but that does not prevent me from enjoying life. I now work as a Research Nurse and until this year worked full time, I have since cut that down to a 4 day week, bliss! I also go jogging 3 times a week doing about 18 miles a week overall. Of course I am very slow and have to walk and jog but I keep going and absolutely love it - it also means that I can justify the occasional sticky bun or chocolate bar!

Of course none of this would have been possible without the amazing gift of a heart or without the skills of the team at Harefield in performing the transplant and in taking such good care of me over the last 17 years and last but not least without the support and encouragement of my husband Peter. To anyone out there reading this who is either waiting for a transplant or who has recently had one I hope the fact that I have had 17 such good years will show you that there is life after transplantation and it's a good life, for which I am extremely grateful!

Love and best wishes to you all

                                 Trish Byng

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