Student nurse shares her heart transplant story to show importance of organ donation

A student nurse from Harrogate who recieved a life-saving heart transplant as a teenager has shared her story in a bid to show the importance of organ donation.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 13th July 2018, 1:11 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:15 pm
Ellie waiting for her heart transplant in hospital over Christmas.
Ellie waiting for her heart transplant in hospital over Christmas.

New figures released this month have revealed that 2017 saw a record number of deceased organ donors giving life-saving transplants to patients across the UK.

Over the last ten years, Yorkshire has seen a 110 per cent increase in residents on the organ donation register, but today the region is still three per cent below the national average.

Twenty one -year-old Ellie Holman from Harrogate, is already on the frontline of healthcare as part of her student nurse placement in Teeside.

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Since her transplant Ellie has helped raise awareness of organ donation with NHS Blood and Transplant.

But Ellie doesn’t need to be taught the importance of having readily available transplant organs in order to save lives.

Aged 13, Ellie was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, but it wasn’t until she was 18 and celebrating finishing her A-levels on holiday in France that she became poorly.

Initially diagnosed with pneumonia, her health deteriorated in a matter of months and Ellie was told she urgently needed a heart transplant.

Immediately put on the waiting list, Ellie and her family spent their Christmas in hospital desperately waiting for a new heart.

Ellie said: “It was awful. As an 18 year old, I was planning on going out with my friends and going to university when my life just stopped. Suddenly I was in hospital and I thought I was going to die.

“I couldn’t wash and dress myself, I couldn’t brush my hair without getting really tired. My muscles started wasting away because I was constantly in bed.”

But by early 2016 a heart for Ellie had become available and her transplant operation was a success.

Since then, Ellie has written to her donor’s family to thank them for her ‘second chance’. She said: “No words, nothing I say, will ever be able to describe my gratitude . It’s like you are in debt to them forever, they have given me everything.

“I just wanted to let them know that I am making good use of my second chance.”

There are currently 85,719 in Harrogate on the NHS organ donation register, but as of May this year there are still ten Harrogate people waiting for a transplant and over 450 more throughout the rest of Yorkshire.

NHS Blood and Transplant leaders claim one of the problems is that the UK has an ageing population but many people over 50 believe their organs would not be young or healthy enough to help other people.

However NHS leaders say anyone can join the register, and that their age and medical conditions are not necessarily a barrier to donation.

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We need more people aged over 50 in Yorkshire and the Humber to support donation.

“People in older age groups can still save and transform lives through organ and tissue donation. Many more lives could be saved by telling their families they want to donate.”

To find out more about joining the NHS Organ Donor Register at