Hannah Pudsey was 13 when she faced having a heart transplant – just like Hannah Jones. (see previous post about Hannah Jones' refusal to have a transplant)
Born with two holes in her heart and a wrongly-positioned valve which swelled her heart to the size of a rugby ball, her family publicly appealed for donors to save her young life. After an agonisingly long time on the transplant waiting list, she had the seven-hour operation in February 2001.
Here Hannah, now 20, of Nafferton, East Yorkshire, reveals to JULIE McCAFFREY the contents of a touching letter to her namesake who has chosen not to have the op.
As soon as I heard your story I felt your pain, and I’m thinking of you all the time. Because at exactly your age I faced having a heart transplant too.
You have been so brave to have made such a big decision not to have the operation. People might think you’re too young to make a life or death choice at 13. But I know that when you’re so poorly and spend so much time in hospital, hearing all the brutal facts about your illness and chances of survival, you grow up quickly.
When you look at your family you must realise how sad they’ll be without you, but you must be a very strong character to still be so adamant about not having a transplant.
That courage is admirable.
I would never dream of trying to convince you to change your mind because that decision has been hard enough for you already. But I would like you to know what my life’s been like in the seven years since my op at 13.
I was poorly since I was a baby so for me, the thought of a heart transplant always seemed like a new beginning, my chance of a normal life.
I stayed positive and clung on to hope, even when I was told that without a transplant I had only six months to live.
Although I knew I needed my parents’ consent because I was under 16, the hospital always ensured I was told all the facts and had a big part in the decision making. For me, declining a transplant was never an option. Although I tried so hard to remain upbeat, I couldn’t help contemplating my own death. At one stage I made a memory box for my family to open after I’d gone. It had pictures of me all dressed up to go to a West End show and on happy family occasions, and emotional letters for my parents and brother Ben. I taped it closed and left it on a shelf.
When I took it down, opened it up and put all the photos back on display when I was out of the danger zone after my transplant, I felt elated. Yes, I take four kinds of different drugs each day. But I’m so used to that it’s no big deal. Side-effects include frequent colds and slightly shaking hands, but to me they’re a small price to pay.
Now I celebrate every day. There have been happy milestones, like winning my place at college to become a nursery nurse and passing my driving test. But to be honest, I celebrate every day because I’m here.
I love doing the normal things – getting up in the morning to go to college, working my shift at a petrol station to earn money to have a great weekend, going out on a date.
These are things most people take for granted, but I never will because I never thought I’d live to this age.
I turn 21 in January and my mum and I have been planning a big party. But I keep having to pinch myself.
For a few years after the transplant I was too scared to make long-term plans. But now I feel so fit and healthy I don’t hesitate to look to the future. I would like to get married, live in my own house and work with children with special needs.
I’ve met a lot of people who have had heart transplants since my own, and the majority are in good health now.
I know your family are very loving and supportive and I’m sure you have lots of good friends. But if ever you wanted someone else to talk to please get in touch. I’d love to have a chat.
I sincerely hope you make the most of the time you have left and ensure you tell everyone who matters to you how much you love them. Thinking of you and your family.
Love Hannah xxx
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves