'I'll die if I don't receive new heart'

MOTHER-of-two Gail Markillie found herself on the list for a heart transplant only a matter of days ago - but the life-saving operation could not be more urgent.

By Danielle Nuttall

MOTHER-of-two Gail Markillie found herself on the list for a heart transplant only a matter of days ago - but the life-saving operation could not be more urgent.

The part-time data preparer has been told by doctors she is unlikely to live beyond a year unless a donor can be found.

Mrs Markillie, of Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, was struck down by meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia in February 2005 - just a week after her 50th birthday.

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She spent three weeks in intensive care and, while in a critical condition, suffered a serious heart attack.

Mrs Markillie, 51, who has two daughters, eventually recovered and was allowed out of hospital but her heart was left so weak from the illness, she was never the same again.

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“When I came out of hospital, my heart was damaged and I was getting palpitations. My ankles were swelling up,” she said.

“I went to a heart specialist and they gave me tablets but it just got worse and worse.

“I was breathless and in and out of hospital because of fluid on my lungs and it went on to angina attacks.”

Mrs Markillie was sent to experts at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge where she was fitted with a pacemaker.

But this did little to improve her condition and eventually she could hardly walk through ill-health.

Doctors decided a week ago that a heart transplant was the only possible treatment to save her life.

“I was really struggling. I was using the wheelchair far more often,” she said.

“I had to get an oxygen machine. I can only get up the stairs once a day. It takes me so long to get up there.”

Within hours of joining the list, Mrs Markillie's hopes were raised after a donor became available. But no sooner had she been told, she received the devastating news that the operation was no longer possible because the condition of the donated heart had deteriorated.

Doctors are hopeful, however, Mrs Markillie will have her life-saving operation because she is the only woman currently waiting for a heart transplant at Papworth.

“I am lucky in the sense I have B as a blood group and there is no other B on the list,” she said.

“I can't imagine what a difference it would make. I don't honestly remember what it's like to feel normal.

“You take things for granted, like going down the bottom of the garden to see the rabbit. I have to take my phone everywhere. I'm always so tired.

“They've given me a year to live but because of the circumstances - being the only lady on the list - they are very hopeful it will be sooner rather than later. I just hope I don't deteriorate any more.”

Mrs Markillie backed the EADT's appeal in urging more people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

“My husband and the rest of the family are on the list because it's so close to home,” she said.

“We've sat down as a family and said this is how it's going to be.

“I would like people to realise what a significant thing it is to do for somebody, to help someone live after their loved one has passed on. It's an amazing gift.”

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