World Transplant Games glory for Sunderland swimmer born with half a heart
A swimmer who was fighting for her life six years ago has brought glory to the region with two medals at the World Transplant Games.
Competing in the games at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre, Louise McLellan has taken bronze in the women's 100m breatstroke, and silver in the 100m backstroke, just missing out on gold to Marcela Navarro of Mexico.
Louise was born with half a heart. As a child she couldn't play physical games, or even run for a bus.
At the age of just 25 she had open heart surgery, followed by a series of other operations to give her more years of life. But that wasn't the end. She was given a new heart in 2013 when her own was failing. A donor heart was the only way to save her life.
Louise, who trains with City of Sunderland Masters, said: “If I’d been born now I probably would have had surgery as a baby, or even before I was born.
“Things deteriorated and I found myself in 2012 getting a lot worse. Things went down quite rapidly.” Then she was given a transplant.
She continued: “I received my gift, my new heart.
"I woke up the following day in intensive care. The first thing I could feel was this really, really strong heartbeat. I knew immediately I was better.”
Incredibly, almost six years to the day after she was fighting for life in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, she was an elite athlete for Great Britain at the World Transplant Games.
Louise, 48, from Chester-le-Street, decided to make the most of her new lease on life, going to the gym, running - and taking up swimming. Then came medals at national transplant meets and at European level.
But competing at world level, and in the pool where she trains four times a week, is new and exciting for her.
She added: “You’re having so many countries with people that have all gone through the transplant process, coming together and celebrating through sport.
“That amount of competitors from around the world makes it a very special event; the surrealness of people being alive when they shouldn’t be alive.”