Stuart Watson finally received a new heart

Stuart tells us what is was like going through the process of having a heart transplant.
WARNING: There are some graphic pictures of Stuart’s old heart on this page.

The “Call”
Waiting for an Organ transplant is quite a harrowing time, and eventually waiting for 18 months, with an ever failing health, I finally received the “Call”. My time had come, a heart had become available for me.Here is my time line story.
The first 24 hours21st March : 06.48 – At home, still tucked up in my cozy bed, the phone rings and the first thought is “Is this the call?” And sure enough it was. The transplant co-ordinator said, “Stuart, this is you lucky day” Stunned silence came from my mouth. “have a couple of pieces of toast, and be at Auckland Hospital by 11.00”

21st March : 11.00 – As the clock struck 11.00 we pulled into the main entrance of Auckland Hospital. Proceeded to ward 42, where we were met by the transplant co-ordinator who took me to a room where I met my “twin” (twin is the person who is receiving the lungs from the same donor) to my extreme surprise my twin lives in Greerton!
21st March : 16.30 – Finally get the word that everything is in place and I am being taken to Theatre. First off a couple of lines put in, for the sleepy drugs and sign the last form and its all on.
21st March : 17.00 – Wheeled directly into theatre where I promptly advised my Surgeon (Dr Kirsten Finucane ONZM) that I would take her to the pub and shout her a beer. And then I was asleep.
21st March : 23.30 – My wife was called to advise that I was off the bypass and all had gone very well.
22nd March : 02.30 – Again another call to my wife, that I was now in ICU, induced coma and very stable. I remained asleep until Monday 23rd

The Following days

23rd March : - I was woken to have my Surgeon standing at the end of my bed, and telling me that they could not have found a better heart! That put a smile on my face! Well actually I had a rather large tube stuck in my throat, so I just smiled on the inside. I received my first visitors, My Wife and Parents.
24th March : - Given the great news that I was being moved to the ward. All breathing tubes had been removed and everything seemed good. Later that day the physiotherapist arrived to get me walking again. Lets just say it wasn’t the greatest effort, but I did get off the bed. Best part of the day was my kids visiting.
25th March : - My nurse advises me I must be feeling better cause I had started to get cheeky. More physio, and the beginning of learning my medications. Over 40 pills to take everyday.
26th March - 29th March : - More of the same, the Walking is getting better and better and am getting around the ward quite well
30th March – I am advised that I am being discharged from the hospital and being sent to “Hearty Towers” (at the Greenlane hospital site) which is a rehabilitation centre for Heart and Lung Transplant recipients. This step was a monumental moment, and at 8 days was somewhat of a time record.
The following weeks

30th March - 4th April: - A slight setback which saw me back in hospital for 3 days to have a leaky wound repaired. In the scheme of things pretty insignificant. Started rehabilitation at the Hospital Gym

5th April - 25th April: - This time line was all about rebuilding muscle loss and regaining strength. I was also having weekly Biopsy’s, which involves a small pair of pincers inserted into the neck artery and pushed down to the heart and removing a small piece of my new heart to test for rejection.
26th April - 3rd May: - Unbelievably my stay at Hearty Towers was about to come to an end when my cardiologist advised I was doing so well that provided my biopsy on the 4th was ok, I could go home.
4th May - 17th May: - I was cleared to go home and on the 5th May around 5pm I arrived home. I was very tired, and took all week to recover from the trip, but as days went on, my strength returned and my commitment to recovery was enhanced.
18th May - 7th June: - Things were going great, I went back to Hearty Towers for my first check up, another biopsy, another clear round, no rejection. I also was able to collect my old heart. This itself was an emotional time, but to describe how I felt and feel about having both my hearts is best said as totally incredible. Returned home for a full on week of Heart Children Awareness week. Things were slotting back into normality better than ever.
8th June – to current:- Another trip to Hearty Towers, and again another clear biopsy. I was also approached by Organ Donation NZ to feature in an article about Organ donation, which I gave accepted, so watch the NZ Herald early August. Late July I was given the all clear to work again, after 2 years!! eeeeekkkkkk, I gotta look for a job!!!
Some of the biggest milestones since my transplant include:
  • Learning to walk again, A 4 day process, starting with a walker and moving to walking up and down the ward in the hospital.
  • Starting to work out at the Gym, and actually felt good about exercising without the worry my heart would stop at any time.
  • Participating in the organisation of Heart Kids week, and the ensuing events surrounding this. It also included a memorial service, where I released a helium balloon in honour of my donor (A 17 year old female)
  • Attending my daughters sports activities and actually being able to encourage them walking up and down the sidelines and no chair in sight!
  • Creating an unbeatable lifelong friendship with my Twin. Affectionately known as Twiny.
  • Dragging the golf clubs out and practising chipping across the lawn. In the next week or two I will venture to the gold course.
  • Getting my old heart back and being able to show and teach people about it, and to discuss Organ donation.

And to date that’s my story.

Thanks go to my Wife, Carole, for the amazing strength she has, without her this journey would have been way tougher for everyone but especially our children.
Also thanks to my Children for being the bravest, strongest kids in the face of adversity, like no child needs to see.
My old heart:
The lead that you can see went to my Internal cardiac defibrillator. It is attached to bottom of the right ventricle

Are you an Organ Donor?If you are, then you need to ensure your family knows your express wishes, for it will be your family that makes the ultimate decision.

Organ Donors save lives. One saved mine, and I thank her and her family everyday.
Stuart Watson had previously wrote his personal story of what it was like to grow up with Transposition of the Great Arteries and then waiting for The Call for a new heart: Stuart’s Watson with TGA awaiting a Heart Transplant
Related Links