Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Five Years on from His Own Transplant, Craig Is Calling for More Donors to Sign Up; New Lease of Life after Heart Swap

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Five Years on from His Own Transplant, Craig Is Calling for More Donors to Sign Up; New Lease of Life after Heart Swap

Article excerpt

Byline: LINDSEY MUSSETT

A TEESSIDE heart swap man has lent his support to the Evening Gazette's Become a Donor campaign as he reaches the fifth anniversary of his own transplant. Just a few years ago Craig O'Neill had to get around using a motorised scooter and faced an agonising 19-month wait for a suitable heart donor in the knowledge without it, he could die.

Craig was born with congenital heart disease and had a number of operations before he was told a life-saving heart transplant was his only option.

The condition meant arteries in Craig's heart were wired up incorrectly and his valves were the wrong way around, putting a strain on his heart.

The 27-year-old from Billingham is now enjoying life to the full five years on from his successful heart swap, and says he hopes his story can encourage more people to join the organ donor register.

With heart problems from birth, and going through his first heart operation at just four weeks old, Craig remembers a childhood of health problems.

He said: "At school, I couldn't always do the everything my friends did.

"But I didn't really get too upset because I was born with the problem and that's just the way it was. I just did what I could and got on with it."

Craig's mum Julie said school teachers at Roseberry Primary School and then Billingham Campus didn't push Craig and were always very supportive.

She said: "He was also lucky enough to have great friends who moved from primary school to secondary with him and they'd look out for him too."

As a youngster, Craig's main noticeable symptom was that he got out of breath more quickly than other children, but as time progressed and the strain on Craig's heart became more pronounced, his health began to deteriorate.

By the time Craig entered his late teens it became clear he was really suffering.

He said: "Before my transplant, I couldn't walk more than about 100 metres. I couldn't take part in sport. I couldn't go out to the pub with my friends or do all the things they did."

Julie, 52, said: "When Craig was 18, we were told he would need a transplant. It came as a shock because it had never even been mentioned to us before. …

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