'I'm only still here because of them' - Sheffield heart transplant survivor says thanks, 30 years on
A Sheffield dad who was given a new heart when he was just 15-years-old has paid tribute to his medical team and the donor's family on the 30th anniversary of his life-saving operation.
Dad-of-one Stephen Bletcher, aged 45, was given a new heart in 1990 after developing cardiac problems as a teenager and being told he had just a few years to live.
On Saturday, however, he will celebrate 30 years of good health in a slightly more subdued fashion than he had planned to due to the pandemic, but said he still wanted to thank everyone who has been involved in his care over the last three decades.
“I'm only still here because of them,” he said.
“I’m not as fit and as strong as I was 10 or 20 years ago but who is? The only thing I am suffering from is ageing but without the new heart I never would have reached this age in the first place.”
Wednesday fan Stephen still takes a cocktail of nine different drugs - including one to make sure his body doesn’t reject his replacement heart - and will do for the rest of his life.
One of these drugs sadly caused him to contract bowel cancer seven years after his heart transplant, but he recovered again and went on to get married to his wife Rosemary who, in 2007, gave birth to their son, Daniel.
Sadly, a family party planned for Saturday had to be postponed due to coronavirus, but Stephen said he still wanted to take the opportunity of his anniversary to thank those responsible for saving his life and ask everyone in Sheffield and beyond to consider becoming an organ donor in the event of their death.
"The teams at the Northern and the Hallamshire have just been amazing at keeping me going,” he added.
“The law on organ donation has just been changed so you have to opt-out rather than opt-in. I would obviously urge people not to opt-out and make sure they discuss their wishes with their families.”
You can register to donate your organs at www.organdonation.nhs.net.