Mission: To be a resource for transplant information; to be an advocate for organ & tissue donation awareness; to promote funding for transplant research.
Monday, November 05, 2012
Heart transplant recipient 30-year survivor
Scots heart transplant survivor meets surgeon 30 years after being told op would keep him alive five more years
JOHN McCAFFERTY, now 70, was told he'd live five more years after the transplant in 1982 and revealed he believed the other 25 years have "been a bonus".
BRITAIN'S longest surviving heart transplant patient will mark the 30th anniversary of his operation by being reunited with the surgeon who carried it out.
John McCafferty, 70, was given five years to live after the op in 1982, but defied the odds and is still healthy.
He said: “The five years they gave me came and went and became 30. I have had 25 years as a bonus.”
This week, he will be attending a presentation at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex.
He will be joined by his surgeon, Sir Magdi Yacoub, who established heart transplantation in the UK and became the world’s top transplant surgeon.
John, from Shotts in Lanarkshire, was 39 and general secretary of the Defence Police Federation when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart that causes it to become weakened and enlarged.
In 1991, John’s nephew, Steven Paterson, was diagnosed with the same condition and also had a transplant.
Now 35, he is also fit and healthy, and works as a radiographer at Hairmyres Hospital in Lanarkshire.
John was diagnosed after he complained of a racing heart. He was breathless and his weight shot up from 10 stone to 13 stone. Then, as he grew weaker, it plummeted to six stone.
John didn’t know it then, but doctors had given him only 10 days to live if he didn’t get a transplant.
He said: “I could barely breathe, I felt so bad and my eyes were sunken. I was told that I needed a heart transplant and it was a risk because so few had been carried out, but I would have tried anything.”
John, who had moved to England and now lives in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, had his op in October 1982 at Harefield – one of only two transplant units in the country at the time.
He was the 41st person to have a transplant there but the rest have died.
His donor was a young man from Essex who had died in a motorcycle accident.
John said: “I think about the person who gave me the gift of life. I do think of him and I will always be grateful. I had the perfect donor, his heart was a perfect match.” He has chosen to never contact the donor’s family, feeling that they had already been through one bereavement and if he died, they would grieve that they had lost yet another part of their son.
John’s son Iain was only 14 when his dad went through the operation at Harefield Hospital.
Not only did John get to see him grow up but he also has a grandson, Oliver, who is now 16.
John says he has refused to live his life against a ticking clock and put any timeline out of his head.
“Everyone has to die and when that is, is out of my hands,” he said. “Every morning I wake up and think to myself, ‘I have survived another day’.”
John is sure that he has made the most of his life and feels he has done things he never would have, had he not had a transplant.
Previously, he had been a heavy smoker, had a hectic professional, family and social life, and was far from fit and healthy.
After the operation, he took up swimming, ran half marathons and even participated in the British and European Transplant Games.
Now John finds that the normal aches and pains that come with old age have put a stop to his athleticism.
Nephew Steven said his uncle was still an inspiration and that every year he lives is good news for them both.
He said: “My uncle has been a benchmark for me. To see him carry on is so encouraging for me.
“You never know with our condition how long you have, so for him to have reached 30 years is inspirational.”
Surgeon Professor Yacoub, 76, said John’s 30-year anniversary was “wonderful”.
He said: “When I carried out the operation, I could never have dreamed that we’d be having this conversation 30 years on. My concern was for John’s immediate future.
“He is in many ways a role model because he is living proof of how successful this procedure can be. He has led a healthy lifestyle and should be an example to us all.”