François, France

I guess it is good to start my story by telling you that I had a very active professional life as a lorry driver.

During the really hot summer of 1976, when I was only 33, I began to feel really tired, even during my holiday. I visited my GP and he sent me to see a cardiologist. At this appointment I received my 'first diagnosis' of a heart problem, likely to be a narrowing in one of my coronary arteries caused by my smoking. I was hospitalised for 10 days and started on my first treatment: antithrombotic pills twice a day, morning and evening, and regular blood tests. After being on sick leave for 9 months I felt really useless and my biggest desire was to start working again. So I went back to work, doing the same job.

One year later I had an angiography. This time I received a 'new diagnosis' of cardiomyopathy. I was advised to limit my efforts, and not to overwork. As I have a strong fighting spirit, I didn't listen to any of these recommendations. I continued to work as hard, wanting to be a good father providing for his family.

The treatment and support of Nantes' Cardiology Department helped me to keep on top of my disease until I was 51. That year I had my first episode of tachycardia, accompanied by a loss of consciousness. I was back in hospital and had my first professional disappointment - I was no longer allowed to drive a lorry. This was really difficult for me, but I didn't give up altogether, instead I worked at various other jobs.

When I was 57 years old I had a cardiac defibrillator implanted. It saved my life on several occasions. But I knew that there was only one remaining solution: a heart transplant.

At 63 years old, I had a pre-transplant check-up and was very happy. My only worry was not being suitable to receive a transplant. So it was with great relief that I learnt that I was on the transplant waiting list. In October 2005 I was advised to always keep my mobile phone with me as I may be called at any time of the day or night. From that day, a never-ending wait started, with frequent hospitalisations and check-ups. My health was getting worse, but hope kept me going even if sometimes I thought that the transplant would arrive too late.

On the 4th January 2006, I received the long-awaited call, asking me to be in the St-Herblain Laenec Hospital, in the transplantation department in two hours (130 miles from my home). It was a really nervous start, I just had time to reassure my wife and tell her not to worry, that everything would be ok. The stress made the journey endless. Once I arrived in St-Herblain, I was happy. Unfortunately, the surgery couldn't take place, but I didn't know why. Very disappointed, I went back home. I can guarantee that disappointment is much more painful than stress. The waiting started all over again. From time to time I lost all hope, thinking I was going to die due to a lack of donors.

The end of June arrived and I had suffered more and more cardiac rhythm problems, putting me back in hospital. I felt that the end was near. On the 2nd of July my wife was visiting me and at 3 pm the medical team announced: "Mister Jaouen, we have a transplant for you."

I was very happy and cheered up when I entered surgery. I received my transplant and everything went exceptionally well. I only had to stay in hospital for 4 weeks and only had a short rehabilitation period in the Kerpape Centre in Lorient. Ten months after my transplant I felt like a young man. "La vie est belle!"

Without support from my wife and children and the competence of the staff at the St-Herblain Laennec Hospital, I would never have had the chance of a new life. Congratulations and thanks to the Department of Cardiology, which enabled me to live happily with my family.

To all who may be concerned, I would strongly advise you to trust medicine, as I would never have believed that a medical department would be so very concerned with the lives of others.

Click on the names below to read other stories.

Theo, Netherlands
Nick, Netherlands

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