A former skydiver who received a donor heart after living with heart disease for more than two decades has thanked medical staff for their ‘wonderful’ care and says jumping out of a plane was scarier than the process of graft.
Joe Scott lived with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for blood to pump through the body, for 25 years and was on the transplant list for four years before a donor organ became 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’. stuck with me over the years and it helped me 100% throughout my transplant process.
“I never had negative thoughts about getting a new heart. Everyone who had looked after me on the pre-transplant team for the four years I was on the transplant list were so positive that it allayed my fears.
“They just instilled real confidence in me through the care, knowledge and information they gave me. That same language that took away my fears is the same language used by the RAF when you’re training or jumping of an airplane for the first time.
“So when the big day came, everything was like clockwork, the process was smooth, so wonderful, everyone was just calm, talking to me, and I never had a single negative thought. I had so much trust in the whole team.
He said that before the transplant, his condition left him breathless after climbing stairs.
“When I got home from my transplant, I knew those stairs were going to be my test,” he added, “So I just walked up and down them and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
“It was even quite emotional, I actually broke down after that because thrashing around on those stairs and out of breath had been my normal for so long.
“That’s when I knew something really special had happened. To this day, I cannot find the right words of gratitude to the individual and family who agreed to give their hearts to me.
The Scottish Heart Transplant Unit, at the NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank, is seeing an increase in heart transplants, benefiting more patients than ever before.
It follows a change to the Organ Donation Act in Scotland towards a withdrawal system in March 2021.
The hospital’s transplant team performed a record 24 procedures from April 1, 2021 to March 31 this year, a trend that appears to be continuing.
Organ donation nurse Alison Mitchell believes the change in the opt-out law has led to greater awareness of organ donation.
She said: “It is too early to determine whether the change in opt-out law is one of the contributing factors to the increasing number of heart transplants performed in Scotland over the past 17 months.
“However, through my close work with families, I have found that the change has raised public awareness about organ donation and many families are significantly more aware of the legislative changes regarding organ donation and support the new system. .”
Mr Scott said: ‘When you’re a transplant recipient, words like gratitude, elation and joy mean so much more than they ever did. That feeling of elation and gratitude is on another stratosphere.
“For someone to be so gracious in their passing to allow someone like me to live, there are simply no words of gratitude worthy enough to show my feelings for this person and their family.”
There are 50,000 people living with a transplant in the UK today, and another 7,000 people are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.
NHS Golden Jubilee provides regional and national heart and lung services to patients and health boards 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 in Transplantation, Dr. Jonathan Dalzell, who was part of Joe’s care team, said: “Being able to care for our patients, like Joe, and see how their lives improve dramatically 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 real heroes of transplantation, which depends entirely on their remarkable generosity and selflessness in the face of profound personal tragedy. Such selflessness sets an example for all of us 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 let your loved ones know your decision.”