Sue Wrightson has a heart of silver . . . after celebrating the 25th anniversary of her cardiac transplant.
The 51-year-old theatre nurse threw a party to celebrate the milestone, with a heart-shaped cake as the centrepiece of the buffet.
And amongst her presents was a silver heart sent by fellow transplant patients who have become friends over the past quarter of a century.
“It’s some achievement,” said Sue who lives in Leyland. “I’ve definitely out-lived what I was told I would.
“Originally the doctors told me I would maybe have eight to 10 years. But I’ve had around three times that.
“And the heart is fine.”
The anniversary party was not something Sue had really planned for.
Despite her 25-year life bonus she still chooses not to make even short-term arrangements.
“I don’t do planning,” she said before the get-together with family, friends and work colleagues at her home in Leyland Lane.
“I never set milestones, I never plan. It’s always at the back of your mind that it might not happen.
“But I wanted to do something. And it was pure coincidence that it fell in National Transplant Week.”
Sue was 26 when she received the gift of a new heart. Having been born with serious cardiac problems, her parents were told she wouldn’t live to see her first birthday.
Major surgery helped her to outlive that initial grim prognosis. She went to school – Kingsfold Primary and Penwortham Girls High – but needed a wheelchair until she was 15.
After school she wanted to be a nurse, but wasn’t fit enough. So she went into dental nursing and had other jobs too in catering, office work and teaching children with learning difficulties.
But at the age of 26 her life changed totally. After she suffered a stroke, doctors decided a transplant was her only hope.
She was given new heart and now admits: “I’ve been pretty normal ever since.”
“I had a bout of rejection four years after the operation,” she said.
“It lasted for six months. My body decided it wasn’t going to respond to the drugs they were giving me. That was the first time I ever saw my husband Mark cry. It was a real struggle, but I got over it. As far as the heart goes, I’ve not really had any problems. Everything has been fine with it.”
So fine in fact that Sue has been a regular competitor in the British Transplant Games since 1999 and has won gold for archery. She has also competed at European level.
Throughout her 25-year “bonus” of life she has never lost sight of the precious gift she was given in 1992.
“I know how lucky I am to be here,” she said. “It would never have been possible without my donor heart and I can never express how grateful I am.
“I found out my heart belonged to a 22-year-old called Sharon who died in a car accident. I will never be able to say ‘thank you’ enough. I am living proof how much difference it (transplant) makes to people’s lives.
“So when the idea of a party came up I decided to go ahead. Life’s for living, not thinking about.”
Early last year, the Lancashire Post launched a campaign to get more people to register as organ donors. Giving the Gift of Life was a big success, with thousands added to the donor register. Find out more about becoming a donor at www.organdonation.nhs.uk