She had a heart transplant aged 3 - now she’s helping other hospital patients

Emma Thompson with Kevin Robinson.
Emma Thompson with Kevin Robinson.

A healthcare assistant is helping hospital patients in Hartlepool - just years after facing her own incredible fight for life.

Emma Thompson’s life was saved when she had heart transplant surgery when she was just three years old.

My donor was only a child, the same age as my niece is now and I cannot comprehend just how courageous that decision was. I feel indebted to that family and intend to make the most out of life to honour my donor’s memory

Emma Thompson

Now, she works in orthopaedic outpatients at both the University Hospital of North Tees and at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

And today, she spoke about her own battle to encourage others to become donors.

Emma Thompson placed a memento in the organ donation display at the University Hospital of North Tees, to mark Organ Donation Week.

Emma was born with a congenital heart defect which was causing her lungs to fill with blood and her body to not get enough oxygen.

At the time there was no corrective surgery available and doctors were running out of medication to treat it.

She said: “Although I was a toddler, I did not reach any of the normal milestones due to the condition. I could not walk, or even sit up unaided.

“At the age of two I was listed for a heart transplant and 10 days after my third birthday my parents were informed a heart had become available.

“Only a couple of months following the transplant I was finally reaching milestones - I learned to walk, started nursery and began to have a very normal childhood.

“Although a transplant is not a cure, I have managed to maintain a healthy life, achieved a degree in health and social care and a job working as a healthcare assistant.”

Without her donor Emma, from Stokesley, would not have had this opportunity – something she will always be so grateful for.

She said: “There are no words to illustrate the gratitude I feel towards the family who made a very brave decision in their time of grief, which essentially gifted me life.

“My donor was only a child, the same age as my niece is now and I cannot comprehend just how courageous that decision was. I feel indebted to that family and intend to make the most out of life to honour my donor’s memory.

“Transplants transform people’s lives. Over the years I have met many people who were unable to do even the simplest of tasks and are now living healthy and happy lives. I feel incredibly passionate about encouraging people to talk about organ donation, open up the discussion, and share their wishes with their next of kin.

“Not all patients are as lucky as me, and people die waiting for the call that never comes.”

“In October this year, the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle will be celebrating 30 years since the first successful paediatric heart transplant in the UK (Kaylee Davidson). This will be another chance to raise awareness of the organ donor register and encourage people to sign up and save lives.”

Non executive director Kevin Robinson, chair of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s organ donation committee, said: “I’d like to thank Emma for sharing her inspiring story and for placing her memento in the trust’s organ donation display.

“Thanks to people who choose to donate organs, we are able to save lives. We are urging people to have a conversation with their loved ones and, if they would like to be a donor, to sign the NHS Organ Donation Register.”