Felixstowe: Heart transplant patient Jo Rook on a mission to help other sufferers
09:59 28 February 2014
A woman who had a successful heart transplant after being told she may only have nine months to live is raising money to help others facing the same situation.
Jo Rook was diagnosed with the heart muscle disease cardiomyopathy after contracting a virus as a 21-year-old nurse.
Over the next 30 years the disease gradually worsened until there was no option but to have a transplant.
She said: “I was very lucky. Sometimes people die before a suitable heart is found.
“I was told I could have nine months to live and I was frightened I would not even live those nine months.
“Three hearts came forward though in 10 weeks – the first two were not suitable but the third was and I was taken to Papworth on a blue light ambulance.”
That was six months ago and Jo, who works as a civilian at Suffolk police’s HQ at Martlesham, is now back at work part-time and going from strength-to-strength.
Now she wants to channel her energies into helping other people suffering heart problems and to publicise the Organ Donor Register.
Jo, who lives in Felixstowe, teamed up with the town’s Gymophobics centre for a fundraising coffee and cake morning, as part of the British Heart Foundation’s Ramp Up The Red annual fundraiser, and a Heart to Heart day at police HQ, including a raffle, stalls and quizzes. She is hoping to have raised around £1,000.
Just as vital is increasing awareness of the importance of people registering organs they would be prepared to donate when they die to allow others to live – and she is thrilled to have persuaded several people to sign up.
She said: “To be able to give something back to those who helped me is just amazing, and seeing people sign up to help others is great.”
Anthony Clarkson, of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Telling your loved ones about your organ donation decision is vital.
“Fewer than 5,000 people each year die in circumstances where they can donate their organs, so we need to ensure that every potential donor who wants to donate is not prevented from doing so because their family do not know what they would have wanted.”