Heart op mum – 10 years on

Heart pa­tient cel­e­brates 10th an­niver­sary of trans­plant

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Vicky Cas­tle vcas­tle@thek­m­group.co.uk @vick­y­castleKM

A decade af­ter hav­ing a lifechang­ing heart trans­plant, Ash­ford mum He­len Smith is still rais­ing money for the hos­pi­tal that saved her life.

He­len, 53, of Hythe Road, was born with mi­tral re­gur­gi­ta­tion (a leaky heart) and has suf­fered re­lated heart prob­lems since she was a baby.

But the mar­ried mum of one said she al­ways felt her prob­lems “were not as bad as other peo­ple’s” and couldn’t be­lieve it when doc­tors told her a decade ago she would need a trans­plant.

She said: “I have al­ways had some­thing wrong with my heart but there were two in­ci­dents when I needed a de­fib­ril­la­tor and then af­ter that it got quite a lot worse.

“I went for an as­sess­ment and the doc­tors knew right away I would need a new heart. It was quite a shock, es­pe­cially when they said I only had a 30% chance of ac­tu­ally get­ting one.”

While He­len’s name sat on a trans­plant wait­ing list her health be­gan to de­te­ri­o­rate, but the brave mum con­tin­ued to live life as nor­mal.

She added: “I was work­ing at the Pre­mier Inn back then and car­ried on work­ing right up un­til the day I had my trans­plant.

“My friends and col­leagues used to look at me to see what colour my lips were and check whether they had turned blue!”

In June 2006, He­len headed up to Hare­field Hos­pi­tal, in Mid­dle­sex, which has the largest and most ex­pe­ri­enced heart and lung trans­plant unit in the UK.

The surgery was an ini­tial suc­cess, but three years later – af­ter bowel surgery – He­len’s body be­gan to re­ject the new heart.

She said: “I had lost a lot of weight. I could eat any­thing and my weight just wasn’t go­ing up.

“So I went to the Wil­liam Har­vey Hos­pi­tal and got blue-lighted straight up to Hare­field.

“I was put in a med­i­cally in­duced coma for five weeks and it was touch and go.

“I had a heart at­tack when I was in the coma and my hus­band, Bob, was told I had about 12 hours left to live.

“When I woke up, I spent an­other two weeks in the in­ten­sive ther­apy unity.

“I had to learn to walk again, learn to feed my­self – ev­ery­thing.

He­len did get bet­ter but just four years later, in June 2010, she had to have an­other trans­plant – this time a kid­ney do­nated by her brother.

She said: “I think the kid­ney prob­lems were brought on be­cause of the re­ac­tion to the heart trans­plant.

“I went on dial­y­sis at the Wil­liam Har­vey three days a week.

“Even­tu­ally they said I would need a trans­plant, and both my dad and brother of­fered to do­nate but my brother was a bet­ter match.”

Just weeks later, her brother Andy Christie, 54, also from Ash­ford, trav­elled to Hare­field hos­pi­tal to do­nate one of his kid­neys.

He­len added: “It has been a bumpy ride but I’m lucky to have had the amaz­ing sup­port of my fam­ily and friends.

“Also, I’m quite naive and I think that works in my favour a lot of the time be­cause I just don’t ask ques­tions!

“You just don’t give up, you can’t, you just have to keep go­ing.

“The amaz­ing team of doc­tors and nurses have saved my life three times and I want to give some­thing back.”

He­len will be hold­ing a cof­fee morn­ing at her house to raise funds for Hare­field Hos­pi­tal, trans­plant spe­cial­ists. On Satur­day June 18, from 10am to 4pm, there will be a raf­fle, cof­fee, cakes and other treats at her home at 118 in Hythe Road. Ev­ery­one is wel­come.

‘It’s been a bumpy ride but I’ve have had amaz­ing sup­port from my fam­ily and friends’

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM4358421

He­len Smith with her brother, Andy Christie, who also do­nated a kid­ney to her

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