A Padiham man who has spent more than 1,000 days on the heart transplant waiting list is trying to live life as best he can.
Patrick McCann, of Barley Street, was born with tricuspid atresia, a congenital heart disease that means due to an absent valve the right side of his heart is too small to pump blood to the rest of his body at a strong enough rate.
He spoke to the Express this time last year – during Organ Donor Week – calling on more people to join the organ donor register.
It’s an appeal he believes is worthwhile repeating and one that could help save lives.
“The response I had to the article last year was fantastic,” said Patrick, who turns 36 later this month. “It’s important to raise as much awareness as possible and Organ Donor Week seems a good time to do that.
“I’m also co-admin of a social media group called Share Your Wishes, which aims to promote the need for family members to tell their loved ones that they wish to donate their organs – as of course, family members are the ones who will decide when the time comes.”
Patrick, who works in Padiham Tesco on the checkout, has been on the waiting list since August 2015, and has had two “false alarms” – the second of which came just days after his last article was published.
“I was actually a backup for a woman who had been on the waiting list for a new heart and a pair of lungs for 10 years.
“If the lungs had not been any good then I would have been given the heart and if the heart had not been any good then neither of us would have received it. Fortunately, she got the heart and lungs.
“It’s a very emotional process, one that leaves you extremely drained both mentally and physically.
“The woman is doing really well now; I’ve seen on Facebook that she’s been to see her family in America. It’s cases like this that give you hope and show that organ donations change lives.”
Patrick had a fontan procedure when he was six, to divert the flow of blood around his right ventricle.
This means his left ventricle ends up doing all the work for his body and his heart can end up overworked. He can only walk about 50 yards before he is out of breath.
“I was asked one day to run round a track,” said Patrick, who is listed for transplant at the Freeman in Newcastle.
“I managed it once and was absolutely worn out. A few days later I was admitted to Alder Hey with a heart rate of 300bpm.”
He added: “Growing up, I was very out of breath, and I would go blue and purple in colour. It’s been a struggle and I’ve never really been well.
“One day (in 2004) I was feeling unwell, a friend of mine tried to take my pulse but couldn’t find it. I just knew I didn’t feel right.
“I went to my local hospital and they quickly sent me to Coronary Care with a heart rate of 30bpm – which was the total opposite from what I had previously experienced.
“I then went on to have the first of two pacemakers, which both developed infections early on.
“After my second pacemaker I was referred to St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London (in 2006) for ablation therapy – the 27th person in the country to have it done. Thankfully that ablated the majority of the palpitations I was experiencing. It left me feeling a great deal better.”
Patrick’s physical struggles remain a harsh daily reality but he admitted that the mental anguish he suffers as a result was just as debilitating.
“I do get sad and down sometimes. Some days are better than others . I would never have thought that it could affect me more mentally than physically but that is the case sometimes.”
Patrick has refused to let his condition hold him back too much though. He completed a degree in theatre and performance at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and is currently studying counselling.
“It’s hard not thinking about it all the time so I try and keep myself busy. I feel worried about the phone ringing while I am too far from home and sometimes I worry about not getting a transplant in time.
“It’s weird that it could happen at any given moment.
“Unfortunately I can’t work as many hours as I used to at Tesco because of my health but I did manage to finish my Level 2 counselling course at Accrington College. I start Level 3 next week.
“This gives me something to focus on. I am just trying to live life as best I can.”
Anybody wishing to follow Patrick’s journey can do so through his Facebook group – “Patrick’s Wait For A New Heart.”