The Chron raises awareness of organ donation and asks ‘Would you give the gift of life’
Source: Northhampton Chronicle, UK
“HELLO, this is Harefield Hospital, we have transplant organs for Natasha.”
The call that Natasha Rogers and her family had been waiting for for more than seven years had finally come through, but it was said in such a simple and low-key way that dad Graham’s first reaction was to think it was someone playing a sick practical joke.
Once they had been assured that this really was the call they had been waiting for, telling them a heart and lungs were available for Natasha, it was action stations for Graham, and for Natasha’s mum Ann. Within a couple of hours they were at the hospital waiting for the go-ahead for the operation.
That was 10 years ago and Graham remembers every detail as if it were yesterday.
Now 36-year-old Natasha is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her lifesaving operation by taking part in a year of fund-raising events which will culminate next week in an 80-mile walk from the family home in Wakes Meadow, Northampton, all the way to Harefield Hospital where they will take part in the hospital’s annual fundraising walk.
Natasha was born with a hole in her heart and hearing difficulties. She has a condition called Eisenmenger’s syndrome which meant that growing up she would often get breathless.
Not that this stopped her. She did everything her younger sister Hayley did, from gymnastics to swimming. It just meant that she had to stop and rest when things got too much.
Her family encouraged her to live life to the full and Graham said they never “wrapped her in cotton wool”.
A transplant was always going to be on the cards eventually but it was not until she was 18 that she went on the waiting list. In the following years the family always hoped that suitable organs would become available but by the time Natasha was 24 things took a turn for the worse and the situation become more urgent.
Natasha said: “I was really tired and couldn’t do much.”
Her condition deteriorated sharply and over the following 18 months she found herself needing to use a wheelchair to get around, a stairlift to go upstairs and having to have a carer come in to help her.
Eventually things got so bad that doctors said she might only have weeks left to live. She went straight to the top of the waiting list and when suitable organs became available the operation took place.
Graham said: “Within two weeks we had the call that someone somewhere had offered that gift. They had lost someone and it’s a very brave decision but thanks to them Natasha was given a new life and hasn’t looked back since.”
He remembers holding her hand for the first time after the operation and seeing that her fingers were a healthy pink, something he had never seen before as her condition always left them looking slightly blue.
The family decided to mark the 10th anniversary with a series of fundraisers including a concert and Valentine’s disco and dinner dance. Graham also ran in the London Marathon this year and said he would love Natasha to have a go at the marathon as well, a suggestion which is met with a snort of disagreement from Natasha herself.
She is happy to focus on tackling the 80-mile four-day walk to Harefield though. They will stop at various places on the way to raise money and promote the organ donation register.
She said: “I love my new life, am determined not to waste it and want to show others that being an organ donor can make a big difference to people.”
One of the most important things she has been able to do since the transplant is taking an active part in the lives of her nephews Thomas, aged seven and three-year-old Jack, playing with them and looking after them while her sister is at work. She also helps out at a local luncheon club and Brownie pack.
Graham is clearly proud of his daughter’s positive attitude and has nominated her to be one of the Olympic torch bearers through the Coca Cola Future Flames scheme.
He is keen to do what he can to thank Harefield Hospital for what they did and to encourage people to talk about organ donation and sign up to the register.
Graham said: “It’s our way of repaying, it’s a small token of our thanks. Yes we want to raise money but a lot of this is to make people aware of organ donations.
“If you can influence people to sign up for the donor register that’s good. We had to wait seven-and-a-half years for Natasha and it’s horrible.”
Natasha has sent letters to the family of her donor. She has never met them, but she knows what she would say if she did, she said: “I would thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
The family need some volunteer drivers to help them with their walk by driving ahead with supplies from August 31 to September 3.
If anyone can help or would like to sponsor the event in aid of Harefield Hospital, they can call Graham on Northampton 406431.