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Inverness medical marvel shares his incredible story as he urges people to register for organ donation

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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John Wallace is a lung transplant recipient from Inverness.
John Wallace is a lung transplant recipient from Inverness.

A transplant patient from Inverness urges people to join the NHS Organ Donation Register after it saved his life.

Just over seven years ago, John Wallace (55) from Inverness, became a lung transplant recipient.

Throughout the course of Organ Donation Awareness Week he is sharing his story to raise awareness of organ donation and the importance of letting people know your decision about whether or not you want to be a donor.

John had been working offshore for 25 years and, other than being diagnosed with asthma, had no health concerns.

In May 2014, all that changed.

He said: “I went for a standard offshore medical and was told I had the lungs of a 90yr old - a bit of a shock to me at the age of 47yr old. I immediately contacted my GP and very quickly was sent for x-rays, scans and tests."

John was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), which is a degenerative disease of the lungs where the air sacs weld together with scarring to be rendered non-functioning.

For the first six months he felt normal until he started feeling breathless doing simple day-to-day activities.

He said: “ After a year of that the breathlessness was such that I was on ambulatory oxygen, a carry tank with nose tubes, for walking and exercising."

"That then progressed to having an oxygen generator at home and being confined to the house due to the amount of oxygen required. I was then admitted to Raigmore Hospital when the generator did not supply what I required.”

Subsequently, John had reached the point where he was ill enough to require a transplant but strong enough to survive the operation. From this, his consultant from Inverness spoke to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, the closest hospital to Inverness that carries out lung transplants, daily to push his case for transplant.

He said: “When I got the call I was transported down by air ambulance for a set of lungs, only to be told they were diseased. I remained in the Freeman and got a call two days later only to find one lung was damaged and I needed two."

Following this news, John was immediately put onto a machine that takes blood out, oxygenates it, and returns it back to the patient. After one week his surgeon performed a nine-hour lung transplant to which saved Johns life.

He was discharged from hospital 30 days after the surgery and was on the road to a steady recovery.

As John built up his strength again he became a budding participant in the Transplant Games.

When talking about his donor, he said: “You are told very little about your donor to retain anonymity but contact can be made with their family through the hospital Transplant Coordinator."

"My wife and I sent my donor family medals from both Birmingham and Lignano, the European games venue. They replied delighted that their son had returned to Italy as a part of me and that both medals were hanging from his photo in the sitting room.”

He continued: “Personally, since transplant, I have got married, I have grandchildren and I have seen the children succeed in their chosen professions."

John is urging people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donation Register.
John is urging people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donation Register.

“In this week of Organ Donation Awareness Week please take the time to register your decision online and, most importantly, have the discussion with your family letting them know your decision. Remember one Donor can change the lives of eight people and that of their families.”

To find out more about Organ Donation Awareness Week and how you can register to become an organ donor, visit organdonation.scot.

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