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A Significant Medical History

Listen to Michelle's story from the Diamond Event (MP3)

In just 37 life changing days, brave Michelle O’Halloran not only gave birth to her longed for first child, but also underwent a heart transplant.

Four years on Michelle shares her incredible story…

In June 2004, life for Michelle and husband Paul couldn’t have been sweeter. Michelle was eight months pregnant with their first baby and she’d sailed through the pregnancy.

“It was a great pregnancy. I felt wonderful - I hadn’t even had morning sickness. I was actually a wee bit disappointed not to have had any of the usual pregnancy conditions – I was just longing for the cravings!

“We’d decided to go away for a last weekend on our own before the baby arrived and it was while we were away that our good fortune began to change.

“I started to feel more and more tired and suddenly my legs and ankles just ballooned. They were so swollen I could hardly walk. On top of that I had become incredibly breathless. In the back of my mind I was thinking that all these things were associated with pregnancy, but decided to go to the doctor because it was all so sudden and severe.

“Initially they thought the breathlessness was asthma, but I then began to develop terrible chest pains too. I gradually got worse and on our first wedding anniversary, Paul took me to Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Far from it being the anniversary we’d planned, it turned out to be a day that would change our lives forever.

“By this point I knew deep down that there was something seriously wrong and I was terrified that our baby was in trouble.

“The doctors did an x-ray and within minutes of the results coming back I was rushed to the cardiology ward.

“The doctors told me that I had developed Peripartum Cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart. The condition - which affects around one in 5000 pregnant women - had been brought on by the pregnancy.”

With Michelle and Paul reeling with this news, and with her condition worsening rapidly, doctors at the hospital explained that the baby would need to be born before they could give her the appropriate medication.

Baby Cole O’Halloran was born by caesarean section in the hospital’s cardiology ward on June 10, 2004.

When Michelle eventually came to after the operation she met her son for the first time.

“Paul laid our beautiful boy down beside me and I couldn’t hold back the tears.

“But our joy didn’t last long. The medication for my condition wasn’t working and my heart was apparently so enlarged it was close to bursting.

“I was told that I would need a heart transplant. The news was almost incomprehensible.

“On top of the impending transplant, I was also really worried that Cole wasn’t bonding with me. I was so ill I couldn’t even hold him. My sister Mari was fantastic she took care of Cole and brought him in to see me everyday. Staying alive for him and Paul was all I could think about.

“My condition became worse and worse in the weeks that followed as we waited for a suitable donor. In that time there were three potential donors, but in the end none were suitable. I began to worry that I wouldn’t last long enough for a heart to become available. But 37 days after Cole was born a match was found.

“I’m alive. That was the first thing I thought as I came round after the transplant and it’s something I still think about every day. The doctors and staff at the unit were absolutely phenomenal and if it wasn’t for them I really doubt I’d be here today.

“After the operation the road to recovery was a long one, but little by little I got there. Once I got home Mari gave up her job to look after Cole and me while Paul was at work. And she’s still a huge support today. I owe her so much, no one could ever ask for such an incredible sister.

“During my pregnancy I had fantasised about pushing my child in his or her pram. It took me longer than most mums, but when Cole was four months old I eventually got my dream – I took my son for a walk in his pram.

“Four years later, Cole is a fabulous wee person in his own right. Even though I’ll always be on medication, I’m just so grateful to be here to watch him grow. There are so many people to whom I will always be indebted: the staff at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary (who I still visit every Christmas) and of course my incredible family, but above all to the woman whose heart saved my life. I know very little about her. All I know is that she was a woman in her forties who died tragically in car accident. The first thing I did when I left hospital was to write to her family to thank them for saving my life.

“Before my transplant I had never really considered the issue of organ donation and how important it is. Now I devote a great deal of my time to raising the profile of donation and the crucial message that we should all discuss with our loved ones what our choices and preferences would be, should they, God forbid, ever need to make the decision.

“Organ donation saved my life and I would urge everyone to discuss the issue with their family or better still join the organ donation register and prevent your family having to make the decision for you.”

So, Happy 60th Birthday NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. With lots of love from Michelle, Paul and Cole. XXX

Visit the UK Orgon Donor website

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Michelle & baby Cole

Michelle & Paul on their wedding day

Paul, Michelle and baby Cole - after the birth

Paul, Michelle & baby Cole