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Family given a fresh start thanks to donor
8:50am Tuesday 26th February 2013 in News
IF IT was not for people joining the organ donation register, the Burchell family’s lives would look completely different now.
Steve, 57, had a heart transplant in June while Janet, 48, had a corneal transplant in 1993 to save the sight in one of her eyes.
The couple, of Middleleaze, who are parents to 12-year-old twins Michael and Megan, said they think about the donors every day.
Steve said: “I was given a second chance and I want to embrace it and embrace life again. I will always be grateful to the donor.
“I can ride a bike and I can go for walks again. It is a new lease of life to be grateful for.”
The family were on holiday in Exmouth in 2006 when Steve passed out on the seafront.
He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which meant his heart was enlarged and wasn’t working properly, and he was given a heart defibulator.
His health deteriorated and things came to a head in 2011 when he collapsed again and was later signed off work.
He had two assessments in Birmingham where he was told his heart was working at 15 per cent, rather than the normal rate of between 55 and 70 per cent, and was put on the transplant list last May.
“I was in denial about how ill I was,” Steve said. “When they said they were putting me on the list I couldn’t get my head around it. You think being put on the transplant list is something that happens to other people, not to yourself.
“I came home that night and I kept thinking my phone was going to ring. I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks.
“About five weeks later, when I started getting into a sleeping pattern again, they called.”
They got the call at 2am, were at the hospital in Birmingham by 4am, and Steve was in theatre by 7am.
Janet said: “We are so in awe of it all. Once they took the heart out they told us he wouldn’t have lasted six months. We never realised how ill he was. He is such a different person now, he is the man I married those 20 years ago. He has far more energy now.”
Janet had a corneal transplant at Princess Margaret Hospital after being diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye.
“I think about the person who donated my cornea even more now this has happened,” she said.
“We don’t know who the donors are. All they have told us about Steve’s donor is that the family were told it was a man with a young family that received his heart. We were told they were over the moon.
“We have started thinking about contacting them now but we know they will still be grieving.
“When we go to our next appointment in March we will ask. They advise you just to send a card to say thank you. Not all donors want to know anything else.”
Michael and Megan, who are pupils at Lydiard Park Academy, said they have both been inspired to join the organ donation register.
Michael said: “I just feel really grateful to the family who said my dad could have the heart. It’s amazing that they actually gave it to us.”
Megan said: “I feel happy that the person put their name up to be an organ donor. I am happy that the heart went to dad, I feel like i have got my dad back. He has got a lot more energy now.”