Heart transplant patient: I owe my life to my donor
PUBLISHED: 06:31 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:13 18 July 2019
She was given just two years to live - but now Yvonne Dunham will shown her remarkable turnaround when she takes part in a tough national contest for heart transplant patients.
Having twice had her hopes of a life-saving heart transplant dashed, Mrs Dunham - from Fressingfield - believed Sudden Adult Death Syndrome would eventually kill her.
She suffered with breathlessness and heart palpitations since 1989 but was told it was not problem for people her age.
However that all changed in 2016 when the symptoms forced her into retirement and she was told she had just two years to live.
"When I was diagnosed they told me there was nothing else they could do, surgically or medically," she said.
"When you are younger you try not to dwell on it but, as I got worse, I got more concerned.
"It was a huge shock when the doctor told me how long I had to live."
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Hearts were found on two occasions but turned out to be unsuitable for transplants.
It took 13 months of gut-wrenching waiting but she finally had her life-saving surgery in February 2018 - and has even been able to return to work part-time since.
"I know my heart is a responsibilty," she said. "I owe it to my donor to do everything I can every day.
"I think about the family all the time. Their person is constantly with me. I have to be getting better and fitter and make the most of the rest of my years."
To celebrate her new-found health, Mrs Dunham is taking part in the annual Transplant Games - competing in a 3km walk and tenpin bowling competitions alongside more than 1,000 competitors in 23 different sports and events.
"I was never into sports at school, I didn't think I'd end up doing something like this," added Mrs Dunham.
"But the sports aren't what you might think - they are less physical and let more people take part which is a great thing."
She added: "I can understand why some people wouldn't want to give permission for their love ones organs to be used, why they might think 'oh my god, they're going to cut them up'.
"I'd ask them to think about the person that organ could help. It could give someone a life."