Heart transplant survivor signs up for greatest challenge - running the 2016 London Marathon

Jo Rook has had a heart transplant and is now in training at Gymphobics in Felixstowe as she is set

Jo Rook has had a heart transplant and is now in training at Gymphobics in Felixstowe as she is set to run the London Marathon. - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk woman who had a successful heart transplant after being told she may only have nine months to live has set herself one of the toughest physical challenges – to run a marathon.

Jo Rook has had a heart transplant and is now in training at Gymphobics in Felixstowe as she is set

Jo Rook has had a heart transplant and is now in training at Gymphobics in Felixstowe as she is set to run the London Marathon. Jo (left) with staff and other gym members hold up th ephone number for organ donation registration. - Credit: Archant

Jo Rook has never taken part in running events before and now has just seven months to get herself to the fitness level needed to join the thousands on the start line of the 2016 London Marathon on April 24, raising money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the My Donor campaign.

She said: “I am not a runner – I have never done running before so I am expecting this to be very painful at the start and a very interesting experience.

“It is a big challenge – probably the hardest challenge of my life, but what is life for if it’s not about challenging yourself?

“It’s going to be so exciting, awesome.

“I now have the opportunity to show the world how well I feel and how grateful I am for this chance to give something back.

“I have only just started the training, having to learn everything from scratch – I am slow-jogging about a mile-and-a-half at the moment.”

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She is training at the Felixstowe Gymophobics centre and staff have drawn up a programme to gradually build up her stamina, working with a BHF personal programme.

Ms Rook, of Felixstowe, was diagnosed with the heart muscle disease cardiomyopathy after contracting a virus as a 21-year-old nurse.

Over the next 30 years the disease gradually worsened until there was no option but to have a transplant.

She was told she had nine months to live and then in 2013 three hearts came forward in 10 weeks – the first two were not suitable but the third was and she was taken to Papworth for the operation.

Six months later and Jo was back at her job as a civilian at Suffolk police’s HQ at Martlesham and going from strength-to-strength.

As well as raising money for the BHF, she is keen to publicise organ donation and transplantation – last week was National Organ Donor Week – through the My Donor campaign.

She said: “It is so important that people register organs they would be prepared to donate when they die to allow others to live – I keep pushing that message whenever I can and at all the events I am involved with.”

To sponsor Ms Rook, visit her Just Giving page

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