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Father ‘elated’ as he leaves hospital after more than 200 days waiting for heart op

PUBLISHED: 11:23 16 August 2020 | UPDATED: 22:15 16 August 2020

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds,  being clapped out by staff as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic.  Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds, being clapped out by staff as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A father from Bury St Edmunds, who spent the entire coronavirus outbreak waiting for a heart transplant in hospital, has been allowed to go home.

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds, enjoys a glass of non-alcoholic prosecco with staff as he prepares to leave the Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireHeart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds, enjoys a glass of non-alcoholic prosecco with staff as he prepares to leave the Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Richard Priest’s heart operation finally went ahead in July nearly six months after he went into hospital.

A telephone call in March to tell him a possible match had been found subsequently turned out to be a false alarm and then the number of heart transplants carried out significantly decreased as critical care beds were filled by Covid-19 patients.

But on Friday, Mr Priest, a father from Bury St Edmunds, finally walked out of the Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, where he had been since New Year’s Eve so his heart condition could be managed until a donor was found, to the applause of hospital staff.

The 54-year-old sales engineer walked from the ward, pushing a wheelchair loaded with his medication, after more than 200 days in hospital.

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest being clapped out by staff as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireHeart transplant patient Richard Priest being clapped out by staff as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

His supermarket worker wife, Rachael, was there to meet him and after hugging her husband as he left the building she said she couldn’t wait to get him home where he will have to self-isolate for the next three months.

His wife and daughter, Georgia Priest, were able to visit him on VE Day, for the first time since March, and he played games of virtual chess with his step-son Ben Smith via video call.

Speaking before being discharged, Mr Priest praised hospital staff for the care he had received and said he was feeling “mostly elation”.

“It’ll be the first time I’ve been inside my house in seven months,” he said.

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest hugs his wife Rachael for the first time in eight months, as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic.  Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireHeart transplant patient Richard Priest hugs his wife Rachael for the first time in eight months, as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

“It’ll be absolutely fantastic.”

He said he was most looking forward to: “Fish and chips. Seeing my wife, seeing my daughter, seeing my dog.

“Just all sorts of things, a normal way of life, the things you take for granted.”

Mr Priest’s heart condition, known as restrictive cardiomyopathy, is caused when the heart’s ventricles become stiff and thick, preventing it from filling with as much blood as normal.

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds, with his wife Rachael as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic.  Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireHeart transplant patient Richard Priest, of Bury St Edmunds, with his wife Rachael as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

There were two heart transplant operations at Royal Papworth Hospital in April and one in May. This increased to six heart transplant operations in June and five heart transplants in July.


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