A former paratrooper who received a donor heart after living with a heart disease for more than two decades has thanked medical staff for “wonderful” care and said that jumping out of planes was scarier than the transplant process.
Joe Scott lived with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle which makes it harder to pump blood around the body, for 25 years and was on the transplant list for four before a donor organ was available.
The 61-year-old, from Irvine in Ayrshire, who was part of the British Parachute Regiment said: “One of the mottos on the RAF badge is ‘Knowledge Dispels Fear’. That stuck with me over the years and it 100% helped me through my transplant process.
“I never had any negative thoughts about getting a new heart. Everyone who had been caring for me from the pre-transplant team over the four years I was on the transplant list was just so positive that it took away my fears.
“They just instilled a real confidence in me from the care, knowledge and information they were giving me. That same language that dispelled my fears is the same wording the RAF used when you’re training or jumping out of a plane for the first time.
“So when the big day arrived, everything is like clockwork, the process is slick, so wonderful, everyone just being calm, talking away to me and I never had one negative thought. I had so much faith in all the team.”
He said that before the transplant his condition left him gasping for breath after climbing one flight of stairs.
“When I got home after my transplant I knew those stairs were going to be my test,” he added, “So I just walked straight up them and straight back down again and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
“It was even quite emotional, I actually broke down after it because struggling up those stairs and gasping for breath had been my normal for so long.
“That’s when I knew that something really special had happened. To this day, I cannot find the correct words of gratitude to the individual and the family who agreed to give me their heart.”
Scotland’s heart transplant unit, at NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank, is seeing a rise in the number of heart transplants, benefiting more patients than ever before.
It follows a change in law on organ donation in Scotland to an opt out system in March 2021.
The transplant team at the hospital carried out a record number of 24 procedures from April 1, 2021 to March 31 this year, a trend that looks to be continuing.
Specialist nurse for organ donation, Alison Mitchell, believes the opt out law change has brought about more awareness of organ donation.
She said: “It is too early to determine whether the opt out law change is one of the contributing factors in the increasing numbers of heart transplants carried out in Scotland over the past 17 months.
“However, through my close work with families I’ve found that the change has increased public awareness of organ donation and many families are definitely more aware of the legislation changes around organ donation and are supportive of the new system.”
Mr Scott said: “When you’re a transplant recipient, words like gratitude, elation and joy mean so much more than they did before. This feeling of elation and thankfulness is on a different stratosphere.
“For someone to be so gracious in their passing to allow someone like me to live, there are just no words of gratitude worthy enough to show my feelings towards this person and their family.”
There are 50,000 people living today with a transplant in the UK, with a further 7,000 people currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.
NHS Golden Jubilee provides regional and national heart and lung services for patients and health boards all across Scotland, and since the service moved to the site in 2008, the heart transplant team has performed an incredible 189 procedures.
Consultant cardiologist and clinical lead for transplantation, Dr Jonathan Dalzell, who was part of Joe’s care team, said: “Being able to look after our patients, like Joe, and see how their lives immeasurably improve after a transplant is an absolute privilege for our team.
“However, we are all aware that it is the donors and their families who are the true heroes of transplantation, which is entirely dependent upon their remarkable generosity and altruism whilst in the face of deep, personal tragedy. Such selflessness is an example to us all and is sincerely and indescribably appreciated by patients and transplant teams alike.”
“If you would like to be an organ donor to help save and improve lives, please make your decision known to your loved ones.”
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