Knebworth heart and lung patient battles to raise transplant awareness

PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 February 2013

Kathryn & Rob Graham

Kathryn & Rob Graham

Archant

LIKE most women, Kathryn Graham is looking forward to watching her daughters graduate and happily grow old in the company of her beloved husband.

But, tragically, this may not be the case.

Because for the past 500 days Kath has been waiting for a call to receive a double lung and heart transplant which will determine whether she gets her wish.

Kath, 51, was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension around two-and-half years ago after she started fainting at regular intervals.

After numerous tests she and her husband, Rob, were told she had heart failure and was terminally ill.

The mother-of-two told me: “It was devastating, the whole family was devastated.

“I knew things weren’t right but I didn’t think it would be that bad. It was such a huge thing to take on.”

Within six months of her diagnosis Kath, of Stevenage Road, Knebworth, was put on the transplant list as her illness was already in the final stages and she wasn’t responding well to treatment.

She said: “I knew that I might need a transplant one day, but I was expecting it would in about 10 years – not now.”

Instead of letting this awful news get her down, the ex-primary schoolteacher decided to do something about it.

A year ago she set up her own blog which led her through the doors of the Houses of Parliament and made her a strong campaigner for organ donation.

Kath, who taught at Howe Dell School, in Hatfield, before her diagnosis, used her website as an outlet for what she was going through – but only made it public at the end of last year.

She told me: “It has helped my friends and family understand what I am going through much more.

“It also means I don’t bottle anything up.”

Kath and Rob, who is a financial consultant, were invited to the House of Commons to speak about the importance of organ donation just before Christmas.

Kath knew very little about donating before she was diagnosed, but as soon as she found out about her illness she signed straight up.

“Rob was on the list before I even met him so I assumed if anything ever happened to me he would just tell them to use them,” she said.

But with one person being able to enhance the lives of nine others, the couple feel it is vitally important to make people more aware.

Rob, father to Sarah, 20, and Rose, 19, said: “The thing with this is we don’t have to do a fundraising run because we don’t want people’s money.

“We just want people to sign up to the register.”

Over the 500 days that Kath has been waiting for new organs, she has made sure that she is living life to the full.

Rob gave up his job as soon as she was put on the list because he was finding it hard to be away from his wife. He has now gone back part-time.

Mr Graham, 54, said: “The bizarre thing is I probably wouldn’t change what happened.

“Of course I don’t want Kath to be ill but I wouldn’t give up the time we have had together and how we appreciate the small things now.”

The pair, who have been married for 22 years, often venture out across the country on weekend breaks – Kath is unable to travel abroad due to her condition.

But if she gets her new lungs and heart she hopes to one day travel again, but that is not the first thing she plans to do.

“I want to wake up and not feel unwell and I want to take a long walk without having to worry about how far I have gone.

“After that the rest will just come.”

n To view Kath’s blog go to www.kathstransplantblog.blogspot.co.uk

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