“Every day is special - I know how lucky I am.”
Twenty years on from his lifesaving heart transplant, Barry Taylor knows only too well how fortunate he has been to see his family grow up.
“I only expected to get about five years from the transplant,” the great-grandad said. “Without it I would probably only have had a couple more months.
“But I’m still here after 20 years; I am living proof that donors work.”
Barry’s condition came out of the blue when he was just 46. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart – and was told he would need a transplant as soon as possible.
Barry had to wait around 12 months, until a suitable donor arose on February 13 1996, and he spent around six hours under anaesthetic as surgeons Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester performed one of the first heart transplants on a patient from the Morecambe area.
“The staff at Wythenshawe were amazing,” Barry said. “I am so grateful to them.”
Barry, who has five children as well as 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, says he owes much of his longevity to the unwavering support of his wife.
The couple, both from the Workington area of Cumbria, met in 1972 and married eight years later. They have lived in Morecambe for 45 years, eventually settling in Combermere Road in Heysham.
“I wouldn’t have got through it all if it wasn’t for Angie,” Barry said. “She has been my rock the whole way through. To be able to see all the grandchildren born and then the bonus of great-grandchildren is just amazing.
“To be given a second chance in life and then to see all of those children is like all my Christmases coming at once. Every day is special.
“I never met my donor’s family but I can’t thank them enough.
“All I know is they were from the Manchester area and the heart was two years younger than me.”
Barry still has annual health check-ups at Wythenshawe as well as minor blood tests every two months.
And he continues to take about 30 tablets a day.
Barry and his family will be celebrating his special anniversary at The Honey Tree restaurant in Morecambe on February 13.
And he stressed the importance of people donating their organs to help others.
“I think it’s a hell of an achievement that I am still here 20 years later,” he said.
“I would urge anyone to carry a donor card. I am living proof that it can save lives.”