Father's plea over 'gift of life' as Yorkshire transplant numbers fall

0
Have your say

Given the gift of a second chance at the age of 64, Richard Wood is determined not to waste it.

After having a massive heart attack four years ago, he was told twice that he wouldn't survive. It was time, doctors said, to get his affairs in order.

Richard Wood, from Farnley Tyas, was given the 'gift of life' through a heart transplant after suffering a massive heart attack

Richard Wood, from Farnley Tyas, was given the 'gift of life' through a heart transplant after suffering a massive heart attack

Read more -> Hundreds waiting for organ transplants in Yorkshire

But he was one of the lucky ones, says Mr Wood today. With a heart transplant, he was given the gift of life.

And all because a young man, who died from a brain haemorrhage at just 22, had taken the time one day to sign the organ donor register.

Speaking out in the wake of findings that transplant numbers in Yorkshire have dipped steeply in the past year, Mr Wood says the chance he was given cannot be lost.

Richard Wood, from near Huddersfield, is speaking out on the importance of signing the Organ Donor Register after a fall in transplants across Yorkshire.

Richard Wood, from near Huddersfield, is speaking out on the importance of signing the Organ Donor Register after a fall in transplants across Yorkshire.

"It takes two minutes, to sign up," he says. "It leaves a legacy, of knowing you can do some good.

"I do think about the donor, and their family," he adds. "That at Christmas, there would be one less person for them to celebrate with.

"I did write a letter of thanks, and to say that out of tragedy some good did come of it. A young lad, becoming a donor, without whom I would not be here."

Read more -> Final act of courage for Yorkshire man killed by prostate cancer

Read more-> Hidden scars of Yorkshire cancer nurse's private battle as a new mum

Read more-> Yorkshire widower's heartfelt plea over assisted dying

Bleak outlook

Mr Wood, a father of two, has lived in Yorkshire for over 30 years, based in Farnley Tyas near Huddersfield. He's in the coal mining business in Wakefield, director of his own company.

In 2013, he had a massive heart attack. Rushed to hospital, he was not expected to survive. A series of major operations followed, four stents fitted, two different pacemakers.

But his outlook wasn't good. As a "last grasp", Mr Wood says, his consultant had tried the Wythenshawe Hospital, specialist centre for heart and lung transplant for the North West.

After 14 weeks in critical care, he got the call. After a nine-hour operation, Mr Wood woke with a new heart, a last gift from a stranger who saved his life.

"There were some interesting conversations at night in hospital, after the visitors had gone," says Mr Wood softly, looking back at this time.

"One of the nurses said to me that I was getting the gift of life. To be able to get a second chance is quite incredible.

"I'm not a particularly brave man," Mr Wood adds. "I'm just one of many, there's nothing special about me.

"Now, my wife Margaret is a donor. During the period I was in hospital, one of my daughters quietly became a donor.

"When I came out, my other daughter signed up as well. I myself am a donor, and it's possible my heart could be transplanted after my death."

One of the 'lucky ones'

Mr Wood was in hospital for a total of 17 weeks, but he believes he is one of the lucky ones, having met others who had waited for a transplant for over six months.

After he was visited in hospital by a patient who was eight-weeks post-transplant, Mr Wood now volunteers with charity New Start to do the same, hoping to give confidence to others.

This, he adds, is a small way that he can repay the debt of gratitude that he holds.

And while legislation is passing through Parliament to change the way the donor system works, the time between then and now is critical.

"Knowing the generosity of Yorkshire's people, it's so disappointing to see how low the organ donation figures are," he said.

"By signing up to the organ donor register, you could save as many as nine lives. The technology has moved on, and life is changing. We have got move on with it."

Today, Mr Wood says, he is a changed man.

"When I look back at the support I was given, there is a long line of people," he reflects quietly.

"My family and I had been rowing down a river but, when we set off on this journey, with all the people involved, it became a small ocean liner.

"I'm now four years and four months post-transplant, and I feel fantastic. It's a bit like pressing the reset button on your life, assessing what is important."