Wymondham man’s new lease of life after heart transplant

John Fitchew from Wymondham who received a heart transplant last year.

John Fitchew from Wymondham who received a heart transplant last year. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

A year ago, John Fitchew could barely walk up a flight of stairs because of a failing heart.

The retired carpenter from Wymondham is now preparing to write an emotional letter to the family of a young organ donor whose death resulted in him receiving a new heart.

The 62-year-old was told that he had five years to live after being diagnosed with heart disease last year. He had also received more than 50 electric shocks to get his heart rhythm back to normal after having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) inserted into his chest after being diagnosed with arrhythmia in 2011.

Within five months of being placed on the list for an organ transplant, Mr Fitchew was taken to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge where he received his new heart. The father-of-three and grandfather-of-nine said the transplant had given him a 'new lease of life' after his quality of life was seriously curtailed after suffering a collapsed heart valve in 2003 and getting the news that he had dilated cardiomyopathy - a disease of the heart muscle.

Mr Fitchew said he was unable to work or leave his home last year because of his condition deteriorating. 'It took two or three attempts to get up stairs to bed and it took five to ten minutes to get dressed because I had difficultly breathing. I was housebound in the end because the ICD was going off and when it goes off, it is like a shotgun in your chest,' he said.

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Mr Fitchew was sent to Papworth Hospital last January for tests where he was told he needed a heart transplant. A month later, he was on the register for a new organ and in June he received an early morning call that a car was picking him up to take him to the hospital.

Mr Fitchew, who was in hospital for 16 days after his transplant, said he was still recovering, but was already more active with his new heart. He added that the transplant had extended his life by an estimated 15 years and he was preparing to write a letter to the family of the young man who died last year, who was on the organ donor register.

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'A lot of my friends have said they are on the [organ donor] list and I was overwhelmed that it was a young male because when I was in my 20s I never thought of going on the organ donor register

'When I was watching the review of 2013 on the television, I started thinking that my heart was someone else's and it was quite bizarre. It has given me a new lease of life and I can do a bit of gardening and decorating at home, which I have done all my life. I do go to the gym now and do a bit of swimming,' he said.

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