A COMMUNITY leader has urged others to sign up as organ donors after revealing how his own transplant saved his life.
Councillor Robin Todd was told he would need a new heart after falling ill with a virus which caused cardiomyopathy – a disease of the muscle.
After a false start, where the father-of-two was told the heart which had been found for him was not suitable, just moments before he was due to be sent into the operating theatre, he was given a new organ which has improved his life.
This spring will mark 12 years since he underwent the procedure.
The 72-year-old is married to Sheila, 70, and is dad to Michael, 41, and Julie, 43.
Coun Todd, a member of South Hetton Parish Council and ward member for Shotton division on Durham County Council, said: “I was being treated for a chest infection, but no treatment or drugs, nothing would work, so I was sent for scans and x-rays at the Freeman and they told me I needed a new heart.
“I’m a fairly calm person, not much knocks me off guard, but my kids took it hard and it had a devastating affect on my family.
“They just couldn’t understand, I was always so active.
“We spent time waiting, but we also had to think about our expectations.
“I was continuously monitored and there was feedback to my GP.
“I had a pager with me and if it went off, you had to get to a phone.
“We had one false alarm late one evening when I was ready to go into theatre and the doctor came out and said sorry, but the heart they were going to give me was in a worse state than mine, so we had to go home.
“Then weeks later, we got another call to say they had a heart and that time, that was it.
“We know it came from a young man who had died in a traffic accident.
“It was a tragedy, but others benefitted from that tragedy.”
The man’s heart was one of a number of organs passed on to those in need of transplants.
Coun Todd, a former colliery electrician, added: “I remember a girl of 18 from Aberdeen who had cystic fibrosis received the lungs from the same person.
“I’ve seen her a couple of times since when we’ve been for follow-ups and she’s like a different person.
“I continue to make an effort today so that people know the register is there.
“People can speak to their doctors for advice and look online for all sorts of information to get guidance.”
He still had regular checks as part of his ongoing care after his operation.
Anyone who would like to know more can visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk for more details.