A mother-of-two who underwent a life-saving heart transplant seven years after her husband died of an unexplained heart condition has been reunited with her sons after 190 days in hospital.
Nicola Sharpe, 48, from Southend in Essex, said she was determined to return home with her boys, aged nine and 12, and ‘didn’t want them to lose both parents’.
The secondary school teacher was admitted to the specialist heart and lung center at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge in August last year for treatment for heart failure, and is now discharged.
She said: “That first hug with my boys is one of the most special moments of my life; it was the moment that kept me going – it felt like an eternity.
“There were many times when I thought this day would never come.
“I can’t thank the team at Royal Papworth enough for their outstanding and outstanding care on a daily basis, and my anonymous donor, without whom this moment would not be possible.”
While in hospital, Mrs Sharpe’s sons were cared for by her sister, Anna-Marie.
Mrs Sharpe’s husband Peter died of a sudden and unexplained heart condition seven years ago.
She said she first developed symptoms in July 2020 when she went out for a run and became so breathless she had to stop.
In September, she got out of breath again while climbing a hill during a family trip to Jersey.
Back home, her brother, a doctor, advised her to go to the emergency room immediately.
The Southend Hospital team diagnosed Ms Sharpe with dilated cardiomyopathy and referred her to Royal Papworth.
“By my own admission, I ignored those early symptoms in July,” she said.
“I’m normally fit and active and run regularly so I just chalked it up to a bad one-off run, maybe because of the summer conditions, but when it happened again in September, I knew something was wrong.”
Her 12-hour transplant operation was performed under the care of Consultant Transplant Surgeon Steven Tsui and his team.
Mr Tsui said: “The course of Nicola’s disease has seen more ups and downs than most roller coasters.
“Against all odds, she succeeded and what a wonderful time to see her reunited with her sons.
“It’s always hugely rewarding to see patients like Nicola go from being so sick, where a transplant is the only therapy they have left, to being well enough to go home.
“All of this is possible thanks to people who decide to donate their organs in the event of their death, a decision that they share with their family so that their wishes are respected.
“Without this decision and this conversation, we would not be able to save lives like Nicola’s.”
Ms Sharpe is continuing her rehabilitation at home with regular check-ups at the Royal Papworth, now on an outpatient basis.