Natasha was born in 1974 with a very rare medical condition named “Eisenmenger’s Syndrome” She coped reasonably well during her childhood, taking part in most children’s activities albeit to a lower level than most of her peers. As each milestone came in her development she slowly progressed passed it. At 18½ she was placed on the waiting list for a heart & lungs transplant at Harefield Hospital. We carried a bleep with us, but unfortunately no calls came in. Unfortunately, transplantation of all organs was severely falling and as a family, we had to sit back and watch as Natasha’s condition slowly deteriorated. She was relying on a wheelchair to get her around, using oxygen more and more, using a stairlift at home and finally having to have carers come in three times a day to care for her personal needs.
We all tried to stay very positive for the next 7yrs, but often the situation was very difficult for all of us. In May 2001, she was admitted to our local hospital and was sent to Harefield for a reassessment. She had deteriorated very quickly, was now very poorly and was given a couple of weeks to live if no transplant became available. She was placed at the ‘top’ of the waiting list and our prayers now became more urgent.
A glimmer of hope came one day in June 2001 when we had call from Harefield Hospital to say that donor organs had become available and may be suitable for Natasha. It was a very, long night indeed and after many delays Natasha finally went to theatre at 6.45am on the following day. It was like a roller coaster ride for the 5 weeks she spent on ITU. Lots of infections delayed her progress and at times Natasha became very frustrated with everything. This was followed by 8 weeks on the Transplant Ward and then ………. finally she came home.
At first it was very nervous for Natasha. In hospital she had the security of nurses around her, but now she was on her own. She had to manage her many medications and document her daily progress. It seemed a slow road, but very gradually she became stronger and stronger. She was taking part in activities that once she could only dream of taking part in.
As each year passed, we were more and more grateful to the donor family who had made this possible. We didn’t know who they were, or where they were from. At a very sad time, they made the most brave decision to allow their loved ones organs to be used for transplantation and Natasha was the person who had been given this new life. For this most selfless gift, this family would be forever in our thoughts and prayers. This is the most precious gift to give and words could not express our thanks and gratitude.
To celebrate her 10th transplant anniversary, we planned a year of fund raising events. It started with a Valentines Disco followed by a Valentines Dinner Dance. 4 members of our family ran in the Virgin London Marathon and then we held a celebratory concert with the Ynysowen Male Choir. A family BBQ on the 10th anniversary day included a 2min silence in memory of the ‘donor family’ 10 balloons were then released into the sky in celebration of each year. Later in the year the 3 of us took part in an 85 mile sponsored walk from our home in Northampton to Harefield Hospital to coincide with the hospital’s annual walk/jog. This took us 4½ days and many people were contacted en route. It was a very emotional moment as we entered the hospital gates to banners and cheers from friends. Finally a brass band concert by Salvo Brass was held and in all £9,300 was raised for Harefield Hospital & British Heart Foundation.
Natasha had never been a sporty person, never having the energy levels to take part in anything physical. During the next 18 months, of her transplant friends were talking about the transplant games. Natasha was inspired by watching the Paralympics, and desperately wanted to take part in some way.
She worked hard and finally her dream came true in August 2013 in Sheffield. It was a very proud moment for us as she led the Harefield Hospital team in the parade through the streets of Sheffield. She took part in 10 Pin Bowling (4th) accomplished the 3,000mtrs walk/jog and then won the GOLD medal in her category in the Cricket Ball Throwing. It was the most emotional moment as they placed the medal around her neck and as a parent it was my most proudest moment.
Natasha owes her new life to the skills of doctors, nurses and others at Harefield Hospital. But none of them could do these transplants without donor families saying yes to using the organs of their loved ones. To anyone who is contemplating becoming a donor then please sign up now. Your selfless gift could give new life to up to 9 people. Transplantation can and does work. Natasha is living proof of this.