Mir­a­cle of new heart for Fox­ton woman

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS - By ASH­LEIGH COLLIS

A Fox­ton woman’s heart­break left her with two months to live, but a “mir­a­cle” ar­rived just in time.

Kerry Hughes suf­fered from the same ge­netic heart con­di­tion that took her mother at age 43.

Kerry is mar­ried with three adult daugh­ters, two who also suf­fer from hy­per­trophic car­diomy­opa­thy, which re­sults in a thick­en­ing of the heart muscle wall.

Symp­toms vary from none to feeling tired, swollen leg, short­ness of breath, chest pain, faint­ing, and in se­vere cases, heart fail­ure, ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat, and sud­den car­diac death.

At age 59, Kerry could barely walk and was told she had two months left to live.

She was on the heart trans­plant wait­ing list, but there was dif­fi­culty in find­ing a heart suit­able for her.

As her health de­te­ri­o­rated, Kerry waited. After three months on the list, she got the call.

With less than six hours on the clock for the op­er­a­tion, Kerry jumped on the first flight to Auck­land, but noth­ing had pre­pared her for the mo­ment re­al­ity hit, that this new heart was a gift given by a griev­ing fam­ily.

“I was fortunate . . . I’m so grateful to my donor and their fam­ily be­cause with­out them I wouldn’t be here now,” she said.

“A heart is one of the most pre­cious gifts you could re­ceive or give.

“I was go­ing to Auck­land with the prospect of a new life, but at the same time, there was a fam­ily who was go­ing through the worst time of their lives, having to make the de­ci­sion [to switch off life sup­port and do­nate their loved one’s or­gans],” she said.

A donor must be on life sup­port and brain dead to be el­i­gi­ble to do­nate, mean­ing their fam­ily is left with the de­ci­sion.

“I was think­ing about that but also with some ex­cite­ment, it was pos­si­ble I might have more life than a few weeks ahead of me.”

The mo­ment she woke from surgery she knew life had changed. Be­fore the trans­plant, she was con­stantly aware of her thick­ened heart beat­ing.

“I could hear it in my ear and feel it in my neck and chest all the time.”

When Kerry woke up from surgery, her new heart was silent, healthy and nor­mal.

After 12 days in ICU and an­other 12 days in a hospi­tal ward, her trans­plant was a suc­cess, but the jour­ney had only just be­gun.

“The first time in physio I man­aged one minute on the tread­mill . . . I thought I was go­ing to die I was just so worn out,” she said.

Six months on, and after in­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Kerry is feeling bet­ter than ever and even tack­led the two hour Manawatu¯ Gorge Loop walk.

“I’ve not felt this well at any time in my adult life, and it is so re­fresh­ing . . . it makes life ex­cit­ing.”

She still takes ev­ery pre­cau­tion to look after her new heart and will take anti-re­jec­tion drugs for the rest of her life.

Some­thing she says is a small price to pay.

“To me, it’s noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle, it’s given me a life.”

‘A heart is one of the most pre­cious gifts you could re­ceive or give.

Kerry Hughes is grateful to the fam­ily who do­nated her heart.

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