From the Heart: Kathryn Graham's life on the transplant waiting list

Lawrence McGinty

Former Science and Medical Editor

Kathryn Graham needs a heart and lung transplant Credit: ITV News

Kathryn Graham’s kitchen is immaculate. Not just spick and span, but as clean as an operating theatre. And it’s as well that it is. Because every day, twice a day, Kathryn’s husband Rob makes up the drug that keep her alive on a spotless work surface.

I watch as he dissolves the drug and loads it into a syringe.

The syringe fits into a motorised driver Kathryn wears in a pouch at her waist.

Every two minutes, the driver pushes the plunger and delivers a dose of the drug. She wears it all the time and it operates 24 hours a day.

Kathryn has a condition called Pulmonary Hypertension – high blood pressure in the artery that takes blood from her heart to her lungs to receive oxygen. High blood pressure doesn’t sound too serious. But this is a killer.

Kathryn has tried all the drugs available. The one she’s taking now is the last on the list. She needs a heart/lung transplant and has been on the waiting list for over 500 days. It gets harder and harder.

When they put her on the list, doctors at Papworth Hospital told her she probably had two years of good life left. That was 15 months ago, time is running out.

Last year, there were 194 people on the waiting list for a new heart, 101 transplants were carried out. On average, 15 per cent of patients on the waiting list die before a donor heart becomes available. The odds are not great

But Kathryn is quietly desperate to beat the odds. She tells me she has two daughters and she wants to see them go to college and graduate.

If just some of the two-thirds of people who aren’t on the transplant register sign up, the odds of Kathryn seeing her daughters complete college could improve significantly.