Birmingham heart transplant patient raises awareness about mental health and organ donation.
Sam Goode was born with a hole in his heart and his parents were told it was unlikely he would survive. He’s now 43 years old and thanks to a heart transplant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in 2006, he has a better quality of life. It’s a huge gift to receive an organ which carries many emotions with it; as such this mental health awareness month (November), Sam wants to raise awareness about the mental health side of receiving an organ donation.
From 3-months old when Sam had his first shunt fitted, he underwent several operations throughout his childhood. In 2005, two months after getting married, Sam started to feel unwell, suffering from fatigue and a shortness of breath. His GP referred him to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, and he was told he urgently needed a heart transplant. Sam was on the waiting list for 6 months when he received the call, letting him know he had a heart. He said, “It was very overwhelming, I was in shock and just couldn’t believe it.”
After 18 hours in theatre, Sam’s new heart wasn’t working, and the surgeons thought the transplant had been unsuccessful. Sam’s family were told to come and say their goodbyes, then incredibly, his heart started to work, and Sam began the recovery process. He spent two months in rehab alongside other heart transplant patients, which was a huge support, he then continued his recovery at home. Sam said, “After being ill for so long it was hard to believe I finally had a heart that worked.”
It's been 17 years since Sam’s heart transplant, and although it’s been life changing and given him a much better quality of life, Sam says he still worries about the future, “Being a transplant patient, you don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s a very surreal experience, and mentally it’s quite difficult to accept.” Sam doesn’t know much about his donor; except he was quite young. He still struggles with feelings of guilt but tries to cope with this by making the most of life and appreciating having a healthy heart.
There is a significant emotional and psychological impact of organ transplants, on both the recipients and their families. Dr Gemma Rutter, Clinical Psychologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, has supported Sam through his transplant journey. Dr Rutter said, “People often talk about the difficult wait for a transplant, and that once you receive your transplant and successfully get through surgery that is the end of the story, when really it is just the beginning. Transplant patients often experience a mix of complex emotions, overwhelming gratitude, guilt and a strong sense of responsibility. Psychological care is an essential part of the recovery journey, and we continue to work hard to improve the provision of psychological care to benefit more patients like Sam.” Sam said, “It’s incredibly important for transplant patients to receive mental health support and it’s not often talked about. I’m sharing my story to help others struggling with this side of the transplant journey.”
Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity and A Edmonds & Co Ltd announced the Edmonds Transplant Centre, which will be based at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. It will become a national centre of excellence for organ transplantation in Birmingham, bringing all the specialist care to patients, including pre-transplant consultations, additional fitness classes before surgery, patient support groups, and rehabilitation classes after surgery. We are still raising funds to build the centre, which we hope will be completed by the end of 2024.
If you would like more information on the centre and how to fundraise for it or donate, please visit: hospitalcharity.org/birminghamtransplantcentre