Beds, Herts & Bucks

Heart transplant patient marks 30 years since surgery

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Media captionJohn McCafferty puts his survival down to keeping fit and keeping busy

A Buckinghamshire man is thought to have become the UK's longest surviving heart transplant patient.

John McCafferty, 70, from Newport Pagnell, was given five years to live when he had his operation in 1982 at Harefield Hospital, Middlesex.

It held a celebration earlier to mark the occasion and the success of the transplant programme as a whole.

"I am astounded and slightly shocked that I have managed to get as far as I have," he said.

Mr McCafferty had his operation on 20 October 1982, the 41st time doctors had ever performed it. He said all the 40 people before him, "his markers", were now dead.

He had begun to feel unwell aged 39, and, after tests at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart muscle.

It meant the organ could not pump blood efficiently and would affect other organs.

He was told to rest for six months in the hope that it would repair itself.

"Unfortunately it didn't and the rest is history," he said.

"In those early days, it was still very much experimental surgery and the longest which someone had ever lived was two years.

"But I was very ill and went into the operation with basically nothing to lose - it was a chance.

"I thought, well, five years is five years, at least I might be lucky enough to see my son grow up, that's the only goal that I had."

He said the factors he feels helped him survive for so long are a positive attitude and keeping mobile.

'I'm just grateful'

"To sit and vegetate is not my scene, I've got to keep myself active," he said.

"Besides the advances made in my medication, this mental approach might have been one of the things [that has kept me going].

"How much longer I have left is not in my hands; I'm just grateful for every day that I have got."

Mr McCafferty is using the anniversary of his life-saving operation to "firmly support" an opt-out system for organ donation.

"I think the responsibility should be on the individual to take their name off the [organ donor] register if they don't support it," he said.

"We spend an awful lot of money advertising [for donors] and it would cut out on a lot of this if everyone was automatically put onto the donor register."

He added: "Is it worthwhile people donating their organs? When you look at somebody like me, then of course it is absolutely worth it.

"I don't know what's round the corner, I don't know what is in the future, I'm just grateful to the donor who has given me that 30 years."

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