Gordon Hutchinson grew up knowing the day would come when he’d need a heart transplant to save his life.
Born with a congenital heart defect, Gordon, 23, of Strathaven, Lanarkshire, needed surgery when just 11-months-old to insert a pig skin valve to keep his heart pumping. Even as a youngster he knew it was inevitable he’d need a transplant.
His heart failed when he was just 13 and Gordon had to hope that a donor would be found. Thankfully after just six weeks, Gordon’s mum took the call that would save his life.
He said: “They didn’t say at first they had a heart, they just asked if I had a cold or cough and if I was feeling ok. Then they said a heart was available and an ambulance would be coming to pick me up to transport me to Glasgow Airport where I would be flown by air ambulance to Newcastle.
“I was very calm but my mum and dad understandably were the ones having to do all the worrying. My dad broke down as I was going into theatre but my mum managed to hold it together, just.
“I didn’t realise the consequences really. It’s one of the weirdest feelings. I had prepared myself that the heart wouldn’t be suitable but I thought what will be will be. I had to have faith in the surgeons and knew they would do the best they possibly could for me.”
After three weeks in isolation, Gordon was moved to a ward where he spent a further two months battling infections and recuperating before finally being discharged home.
Gordon said: “I had my transplant in March and was well enough to go back to school in August for S2. I felt great and was able to do so much more than ever before. Growing up I was very small for my age and prone to infections. I couldn’t play football or do a lot of things other kids could. It had a real impact on my life, friendships and schooling so it was amazing to go back to school.”
Following his transplant Gordon was able to live a normal life and enjoyed it to the full until fate struck him another cruel blow and he was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of cancer, aged just 17.
He said: “The anti-rejection drugs you take to stop your body rejecting your transplant carry a very small risk of you developing cancer. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones. I had a year of chemotherapy but I was determined I would fight it.
“I’m very much the sort of person that thinks it’s how you cope with these things that make a difference. You have to live life and grab it with both hands. I even managed to pass my driving test when I was going through chemo as I was determined the cancer wouldn’t stop me.”
Two years later Gordon married the love of his life Catriona Anderson in 2013.
He said: “I told Catriona very early on in our relationship about my transplant and my cancer. I felt she had to know what she was taking on. She has been amazing, so supportive. Our wedding favours included an organ donor sign up form, I want to do anything I can do to give back to the people that helped save me.
“My donor gave me the gift of life and I want to make sure I live it to the full. Last year I climbed Ben Nevis in the snow and walked the West Highland Way. I want to show people just how much organ donation changes lives.”