“Every day is special; I know how lucky I am.”
Twenty years on from his lifesaving heart transplant, Barry Taylor knows only too well how fortunate he has been to see his family grow up.
“I only expected to get about five years from the transplant,” the great-grandad said. “Wthout it I would probably only have had a couple more months.
“But I’m still here after 20 years; I am living proof that donors work.”
Despite heart problems running in the family – Barry’s father and three brothers have all died from heart-related illness – Barry’s condition came out of the blue when he was just 46.
“I was tiling the bathroom one day and I started sweating right down one side of my body,” he said. “It was like there was a line drawn down my body and the other side was completely dry.”
Barry was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart – and was told he would need a transplant as soon as possible.
“My mum always said I had a big heart,” he joked.
Barry had to wait around 12 months, until a suitable donor arose on February 13 1996.
He said: “We got the call just after 9pm to say a donor had been found and an ambulance was on its way to pick me up.”
“He had just taken his sleeping tablets so he slept the whole way there in the ambulance,” Angie added.
Once at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, Barry was whisked straight to the operating theatre, where he spent around six hours under anaesthetic as surgeons performed one of the first heart transplants on a patient from the Morecambe area.
“It was all go, I went straight in; there was no time for any second thoughts,” Barry said.
After the operation, Barry and Angie moved into a new ‘half-way house’ bungalow at the hospital, where Barry spent a couple of weeks getting used to routine life again.
“For a while after the transplant he was fitter and healthier than he had been for years,” Angie said. “He was riding a bike two days later.”
“The staff at Wythenshawe were amazing,” Barry said. “I am so grateful to them.”
Barry also had the chance to welcome his first grandchild into the world, when baby Shannon was born six days after his surgery.
Barry, who has five children as well as 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, says he owes much of his longevity to the unwavering support of his wife.
The couple, both from the Workington area of Cumbria, met in 1972 and married eight years later.
They have lived in Morecambe for 45 years, eventually settling in Combermere Road in Heysham.
“I wouldn’t have got through it all if it wasn’t for Angie,” he said. “She has been my rock the whole way through.
“To be able to see all the grandchildren born and then the bonus of great-grandchildren is just amazing.
“To be given a second chance in life and then to see all of those children is like all my Christmases coming at once.
“Every day is special.
“I never met my donor’s family but I can’t thank them enough.
“All I know is they were from the Manchester area and the heart was two years younger than me.”
Barry worked as a lorry driver for Gott’s Chickens in Westgate until he was taken ill.
He still has annual health check-ups at Wythenshawe as well as minor blood tests every two months.
And he continues to take about 30 tablets a day.
Barry and his family will be celebrating his special anniversary at The Honey Tree restaurant in Morecambe on February 13.
And he stressed the importance of people donating their organs to help others.
“I think it’s a hell of an achievement that I am still here 20 years later,” he said.
“I would urge anyone to carry a donor card. I am living proof that it can save lives.”
Heart Transplants – The Facts
* A heart transplant is an operation to replace a damaged or failing heart with a healthy human heart from a donor who has recently died.
It may be needed when a person’s heart can no longer work effectively, potentially putting their life at risk.
* It is estimated that around one in 10 people will die due to complications in the first year after surgery. Most deaths occur in the first 30 days after surgery, and after this time the chances of survival improve dramatically.
* Heart transplants are rarely performed in the UK, mainly due to a lack of suitable donors. There were 197 heart transplants performed in the UK between 2012 and 2013.
* For those people who are fortunate enough to receive a transplant, the long-term outlook is now very good. Between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of transplant patients live for at least a year after the transplant; 75 per cent are alive after five years; and between 50 per cent and 60 per cent are alive after 10 years.