Published: Thursday, July 5th, 2018
My Gift of Life - My Gift of Time
Andrew Nelson, centre, with staff on the NSD ward which cares for transplant patients
Andrew Nelson is just three weeks older than the NHS – the national treasure which saved his life.
The 70-year-old suffered a major heart attack, resulting in triple bypass surgery just before his 40th birthday.
However, when his health became steadily worse over the next 10 years, it was apparent that he urgently needed a heart transplant, which the grandfather-of-three, from Helensburgh, received at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary Hospital 20 years ago.
Since all adult heart and lung services moved to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital 10 years ago, Andrew’s care also transferred over and it was then he decided to ‘give something back to the NHS’ by offering his services as a Peer Support Volunteer.
Andrew, a former Ministry of Defence Police Sergeant, said: “My birthday is actually three weeks prior to the NHS service starting; if it wasn’t for NHSScotland and the marvellous transplant team here, I wouldn’t be here today.
“Prior to my heart attack I’d never been ill and therefore never needed to see a doctor. I was always athletic, had a very demanding job, always on the go and interested in sport and going about my daily duties with absolute ease.
“When I fell ill the NHS was there for me. They were super efficient, helpful and extremely compassionate and I have nothing but the highest praise for their brilliant staff our national service.”
Andrew feels to say thank you is just not enough and he now offers his time in delivering invaluable support and great advice to transplant patients. One person who has taken advantage of this is Mark Duddy, 48, a caretaker from Uddingston, who received a heart transplant at the Golden Jubilee last winter and is deeply grateful for his life-saving care, as well as the support and friendship received from Andrew.
Whilst Mark was in the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Andrew was a regular visitor. Having firsthand knowledge and experience of being on the transplant list, he was able to guide Mark through some difficult times.
Mark said: “Sometimes when you’re feeling unhappy and you’re thinking why me and why did this happen to me?, Andrew is always there to give you advice and support that just lifts your spirits to keep positive.
“Although your family visit regularly, they really can’t appreciate the challenges you are facing on a daily basis because they haven’t had a problem with their heart, but Andrew quickly recognises those challenges therefore immediately supports and guides you over those many hurdles. He’s been through the same and I’m very grateful he was there for me especially when I was feeling really down. On the other hand, it’s also important for him to see you when you’re really happy too.”
He added: “I’m very grateful for what the NHS has done for me and can’t thank the doctors and all the staff highly enough.”
Marcella Boyle, Chair of the Golden Jubilee Volunteer Forum, said: “All of our volunteers give up their own time to help others when they need it most; they are a credit to themselves, our hospital and the NHSScotland.
“Andrew’s role is particularly important, helping seriously ill patients through a difficult time and giving them hope to keep their spirits high.”
June Rogers, Director of Operations, added: “As the NHS turns 70, our volunteers show the respect, goodwill and passion that we all have for our wonderful health service.
“The Golden Jubilee Foundation is this week joining the rest of our NHS colleagues and the wider public in celebrating this momentous 70-year milestone that will help carry us forward with hope, dedication and inspiration into the years ahead.”