Transplant feature: Pauline’s story
Pauline Ginn, aged 55, of Bolton, in Lancashire, didn’t have to wait long for her heart and double lung transplant – she was put on the waiting list in January 2015 and underwent the life-changing surgery in April. It was a good job though, as she was in urgent need. Here Pauline tells us how an early match probably saved her life.
“When I was having the transplant assessment in January, I felt alright really; quite well. And as I went through the process, I had it in mind that a transplant was something that might happen to me in future, in ten years or so. I had no idea just how quickly my condition was going to deteriorate to a crisis point and that I’d need a transplant within weeks. Or that I’d get one!
I was born with a hole in my heart but doctors had thought it would close itself in time and it wasn’t until I had a check-up when I was 23 years old that they discovered the hole had grown with me. The doctors said that I would not see 30 unless I had open heart surgery, which I did. Meanwhile my PH had got progressively worse as the hole was in the left ventricle, and the right ventricle was having to cope with all the work. The cardiac consultants at Wythenshawe Hospital referred me to the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield when I was 42 years old and Dr Kiely confirmed my PH diagnosis. I was Dr Kiely’s 100th patient! I know he has seen hundreds now.
After years of colds turning to pneumonia, and putting me on every PH treatment and IV therapy going, I was put on the list for a transplant last year.
It was shortly after that, that I got a severe chest infection, was rushed to intensive care and spent three months at the Royal Hallamshire, often in high dependency care. I was so weak. I had two pints of fluid removed from my body and another one and half pints from my left lung. I’d lost so much weight I was reduced to five and half stone. I did look poorly, I was blue. They were really worried about me.
Eventually I was sent home on 24 hour oxygen and was in quite a bad state. Just three weeks later I got the call that a ‘package’ of heart and lungs had been donated that were a perfect match for me. I couldn’t believe it. But one thing was for sure, the transplant was a necessity. It had to be done.
My consultant surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital was Dr Venkateswararn and he is such a lovely man. I give him a hug and kiss every time I see him. I was his first heart and double lung transplant – but it didn’t tell me that until afterwards! He’d observed five operations before tackling me and he hopes to carry out many more up here in the north in future. He has already carried one more since mine.
I was in theatre for ten and a half hours and then in intensive care for five weeks and on the rehab ward for two weeks, but it has all turned out well. I am here with my family. That is the main thing. I’m not sure I would be otherwise. I was so very ill before and my lungs were in a terrible state.
We’ve had our first holiday in ten years in Spain this summer and I am so grateful to everyone – the donor and their family and all the medical staff – for this second life. One of the weirdest things is how much I miss everyone at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as I don’t have to go now! Part of rebuilding your life after such a dramatic operation is adjusting to all the changes like that, which you just don’t think about beforehand. ”