University student, Jim, supports Charity’s Heart in a Box campaign
Student, Jim Lynskey, 22, contracted meningitis, an infection of the tissues protecting the brain and spinal cord, at birth. Jim’s illness caused him to develop a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, where the muscles which usually keep the heart pumping become stretched and weak reducing blood flow around the body.
As a child doctors dealt Jim the devastating blow that he was unlikely to live past his teenage years. At age eight, Jim’s heart began to beat irregularly causing him to go into cardiac arrest, where the heart stops pumping blood around the body. As a cardiac arrests put Jim at risk of sudden death he needed to have a battery powered device inserted just behind his collar bone which would give the heart an electric shock if the rhythm becomes too dangerously irregular.
Several years later, aged 17, Jim had another cardiac arrest rendering him unconscious for 15 minutes, at this point medical professionals believed that even if Jim did wake up, he would have sustained serious brain damage. However, due to the high skill of those performing life-saving resuscitation on Jim, he once again defied all expectations and woke up without any obvious damage to his brain.
Unfortunately little over a year later, Jim contracted pneumonia which attacked his already fragile heart, causing him to spiral into very advanced heart failure leaving him fighting for breath with every step. Whilst a heart transplant may have seemed like a logical next step, the teenager was told that his heart failure was so severe that the risks associated with a transplant were too high.
The only option left for Jim was to be fitted with a left ventricular assist device more commonly known as an LVAD. An LVAD is a type of artificial heart pump which is often given to people who are awaiting a heart transplant, and whilst Jim’s LVAD allows him to continue his studies at University, life with an LVAD is a far cry from typical student living. The battery life for an LVAD machine is limited and if it runs out of charge, Jim risks having another life-threatening cardiac arrest, not only is this an inconvenience for Jim, but also a source of constant worry.
Jim explained: “I know that the LVAD machine is keeping me alive, but in some aspects it is hugely limiting, for example, I can’t go into water, and I am always aware of it running out of charge meaning I worry about being away from home for a long period of time.
“I can’t express enough the importance of bringing Heart in a Box to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, waiting for a transplant is extremely stressful, and even when you get the call telling you there’s a heart available, there’s no guarantee that that heart will be in a good enough condition to be transplanted. But this machine keeps the blood pumping around the heart so it stays in a good condition for longer, increasing the recipient’s chances of having a successful transplant.”
If you would like to support QEHB Charity’s Heart in a Box appeal please click here, or for more information go to qehb.org/heart.
For more information on organ donation visit organdonation.nhs.uk