Transplant Stories

Patsy Sim

By 2022-09-27 No Comments

World Heart Day is on Thursday, 29 September and we celebrate this day by featuring Patsy Sim’s story. Patsy had a heart transplant 11 years ago. This vibrant 74 years old, living on the Peninsula in the Free State tells her story.

1. Which organ did you receive, and in what year?
Heart transplant in 2011.

2. How long were you on the waiting list for your organ?
A few weeks, I was placed on the Emergency Transplant List.

3. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
I was a healthy 63 year old that was not using any medications prior to July 2011 when I started experiencing shortness of breath. I assumed I had pneumonia. To my shock, I was diagnosed with dilated idiopathic cardiomyopathy on the 18th July 2011 and spent a week in the hospital. On the 1st August I received a pacemaker and stayed in ICU connected to many machines. I had physio daily but was bedridden and swollen with zero quality of life. On 10th September 2011, the specialist informed my family and I that the pacemaker was not working. My only option was a heart transplant. The transplant team came to assess my situation. And I was placed on the Emergency National Transplant waiting list.

I was placed in a high care home awaiting a heart. Still completely bedridden, living on oxygen 24 hours a day which makes sleeping very uncomfortable.


4. Describe the emotions experienced when you received “The Call” for your transplant?
My doctor came to my bedside at the home to share the news that a heart was available and being flown up from the Eastern Cape the next morning, should I choose to receive it. I was overwhelmed with emotions of joy and disbelief that it had only been a few weeks since being informed that I needed a new heart.


5. What is life like now, after the transplant?
Life immediately after the transplant was strange. After spending 5 days in ICU, I went to isolation for 5 days and then to my home which I hadn’t seen in months. I was able to breathe and walk unaided. However, for the first year, I had to take it very easy, not doing much at all and resting frequently. I was swollen from the medications and had the shakes for an entire year post-op.

I was so grateful to my donor that I wanted to do something to honour their gift of life to me. I joined SATSA (South African Transplant Sports Association) and participated in two World Transplant Games; Spain 2017 and UK 2019 where I won the GOLD medal for Ten Pin Bowling. Prior to my transplant I had not ever taken part in any sport, this opened a whole new world to me. I have met so many inspiring, really good people who are Living LIFE to the full.


6. What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
To everyone who is currently on the transplant list, be patient, hang in there as LIFE is worth the fight.


7. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
I feel that by taking part in the TRANSPLANT GAMES it is the best way to increase awareness for the need for organ donation world wide.


8. If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?