This organ donation week we bring you the story of Andrew Ely, critical care audit research nurse at The Royal London Hospital. In 2017 he underwent a heart transplant which changed his life.
“It all started in 2005 when I was working at The London Chest Hospital (now St Bartholomew’s) in the Intensive Care Unit. I found out I had a blood clot, causing a myocardial infarction and following an MRI scan I was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited disease of the heart muscle, where the muscle wall of your heart becomes thickened. I was very active before I was diagnosed with HCM, but living with the disease meant I had to revert to lower intensity exercise such as walking. Doing anything too strenuous could have serious implications on my heart.
“Five years after my first MRI scan I had another blood clot, and another M.I. This was caused by an abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation) and I had implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted which would shock my heart if it was beating dangerously – touch wood, this never happened!”
Despite changing his lifestyle and receiving further treatment Andrew still continued to have problems with his heart:
“It was in 2016 at my friend’s wedding that I experienced another atrial fibrillation episode, and later in the year I had a stroke - it was then I knew I would need a heart transplant in the future.
“Daily activities were becoming more difficult; my legs would swell up if I was stood up too long and even walking up the stairs made me feel dizzy. I returned to my doctor in March 2017 for tests and I was placed on the non-urgent transplant list.
“My health continued to deteriorate further and in July 2017 I was moved to the urgent transplant list. After three false alarms I received my new heart in September 2017, I was incredibly lucky to find a match so quickly.
Following his transplant, Andrew’s life changed for the better and he is now able to do things that others would take for granted:
“Just going to the shops to get a pint of milk was a wonderful feeling; my transplant has reignited my love for life, I’m embarking on a new journey and doing things I thought were no longer possible. I will be forever grateful to my donor, the doctors and nurses for giving me this precious gift – they are amazing!”
Nearly a year after his transplant Andrew is independent and rejection free and is now an organ donation ambassador for London; he ended his interview with this message:
“This organ donation week people should just talk. Talk to your family and friends about your wishes, so when the time comes they know what you would have wanted.
“In a moment of sorrow my donor’s family made a decision that changed my life, and I hope that they find some contentment in that – thank you is not enough to express my gratitude.”
Has Andrew’s story inspired you? If so, say #YesIDonate by joining the Organ Donation Register.
If you would like Andrew to visit your community group or team to discuss organ donation please contact him via email