More than 70 Scottish heart transplant patients celebrated Christmas together with a special lunch at NHS Golden Jubilee this month, as the Hospital marked a record year for heart transplantation.
Specialists in the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS), based at the Golden Jubilee University National Hospital in Clydebank, carried out a record number of 40 heart transplants in 2022-23, officially becoming the highest volume provider in the UK for the past year.
To cap off this incredible year, the team welcomed 76 heart transplant patients for a special Christmas lunch, to get together, share their stories, memories and experiences and ring in the festive season in style.
Innovation in techniques and advancements in technology, such as an Organ Care System (Heart in a Box) to allow surgeons to transplant hearts from donors who die after circulatory death (DCD), have increased the availability of hearts for transplant and have also boosted the success rate which is currently at 95% for 90-day survival.
Registration for organ donation has also been higher in Scotland over the last 2 years following the opt-out change in the law in 2021, as the law change has increased awareness of organ donation.
Consultant Cardiologist and SNAHFS Clinical Lead, Jonathan Dalzell said: “This has been an incredible year for the service. Not only does this represent the highest number of transplants ever to be carried out in the 15 years since the service came to NHS Golden Jubilee, but the most in the history of Scotland.
“This also marks the first time our service has ever been the highest volume provider in the UK. To accomplish this despite being the smallest service in the UK is directly down to the exceptional teamwork, expertise and dedication of everyone involved.
“To top this year off by welcoming so many people, all of whom are still here thanks to the remarkable work of the team over the years, and the generosity of donors who have literally given the gift of life, at Christmas time is amazing.
“To see them all in one room, sharing what they’ve been through and embracing life, is remarkable to see.”
One of the transplant recipients, Megan Geddes, 30 from Dalmuir, West Dunbartonshire, discussed her journey following her transplant in 2022.
She said: “I’m very grateful to have my transplant so young as I was told that I might not have lived past the age of 35, so I’m extremely grateful for this second chance at life.
“To come along to the Christmas lunch, I didn’t even get to eat my soup before I was crying. It’s just so nice to see everyone so happy. Regardless of what they’ve been through, they could all get together and enjoy the moment.
“Sometimes I feel guilty when I think about my donor. I can only hope I’m doing them proud by getting on with life and making the most of it.
“I feel like my transplant isn’t my whole story. For so long it was always ‘Oh, you’re unwell, how are you?’ Now it’s ‘you look great, you’re working’. I went to a concert a few weeks ago for my 30th birthday, and to just be able to dance around for 2 and a half hours felt amazing. It feels like a new chapter.”
Megan recently began her new working career with a training provider for the Merchant Navy, and is very excited to be celebrating this Christmas with her sister and loved ones.