Scottish sisters look forward to ‘normal’ festive season after heart transplant ops
Allison Kerr and Karen Owens were diagnosed with the genetic heart condition familial dilated cardiomyopathy, which led to the death of their father in 2005.
As their symptoms progressed, the sisters discovered their only option was to undergo heart transplantation, and they both had to shield during the Covid pandemic due to their vulnerability.
Mrs Kerr, 55, received a new heart at NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank in 2020 while her sister received one last year.
They are now looking forward to being fully able to celebrate Christmas and new year.
Ms Owens, 58, said: “I was having a bath the other day and it suddenly just washed over me that I felt good. I felt normal. I don’t know my donor’s name, but I call her Angela because to me she is an angel.
“I got quite emotional in my house about it, that part is quite hard to deal with. I said out loud ‘thank-you Angela’.
“For so long I felt dull and lifeless, now I feel like I have music in my head again. I haven’t been able to celebrate in so long – the last two years I was in hospital over the holidays, as well as on my birthday and the anniversary of my transplant.
“To feel like this and finally be able to have a normal Christmas and new year is fantastic and I can’t wait.”
Although her transplant went well, Ms Owens has spent 205 days in hospital over the past year due to other medical problems.
Not long after her transplant she developed two lung infections, which had nothing to do with her heart, but came from soil she was using at her allotment.
Doctors then discovered a pre-cancerous growth on her foot that required surgery. She said: “It really did affect me mentally more than anything. It just felt like one thing after another and it was scary.”
NHS Golden Jubilee is home to the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service, which is the adult heart transplantation centre for Scotland. Since April, the team have performed 28 heart transplants.
Before they became ill, the sisters, from Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire, were known for taking on charity fundraising challenges and have now started doing so again.
They teamed up with another transplant patient from NHS Golden Jubilee, Marie Coyle Robertson, to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, thank the team who cared for them and also celebrate the memory of all those who have donated an organ and given someone else the gift of life.
Mrs Kerr, who has two step-children and three grandchildren, said: “We teamed up with Marie to raise money and awareness for the heart transplant service by walking 100,000 steps throughout October.
“If you’re fit and healthy, that’s usually very doable, but when you’ve had a recent heart transplant it’s much more of a challenge, but we did it and raised £2,000 in the process.”
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