20th January 2020

Our story - Amber & Aaron

In 2015 my then boyfriend Aaron who was a fit and well offshore worker fell ill one day out of the blue just after his 27th birthday. He was rushed into hospital and we were told he was having an acute cardiac event; neither of us had ever spent any time in hospital before and assumed he would need some medication from now on and we could go home. A day later the hospital rang me in the middle of the night asking me to get there because he had suffered a huge stroke. The stroke left Aaron unable to speak. From that day on our lives stopped and everything became about his illness.

After months of tests and eventual referral to a specialist hospital the Freeman in Newcastle we began to realise how poorly he was and how likely it was that his heart would one day just stop. We never imaged or had even really heard of a heart transplant but that soon became his only hope of surviving. Whilst waiting for a heart transplant for over three years he spent time living in hospital or being cared for by me at home. I still had to carry on working full time because we had not long owed our own house. Life was pretty impossible, trying to get my head around losing my now fiancé and the future I had planned out never happening or if I didn’t lose him it would only be because another person has lost their loved one.

During Aaron’s long wait for a heart I did almost lose him more than once, and I lost friends I had made during the wait. I decided to raise money and awareness about heart failure and I signed up to run the Great North Run for BHF, I found that whilst I was training, running long runs on my own I processed all of the things I had seen and hidden away because they were too traumatic to think about. Whilst I was running I would re play them but I would feel calm and make sense of them, after each long hard run I felt like a weight had been lifted. I then ran the London Marathon for Cardiac Risk in the Young. Just before the marathon I had found Aaron unresponsive so my dream of him being at the finish line cheering me on was snatched away because he was in intensive care sedated and to poorly to even send me a good luck text, it was cruel for us both.

I’ve since done many Run Nation races and another two Great North runs. Whilst Aaron was living in freeman I would take my running kit with me after work get changed there and go for a run to break up the visit, it was the only hours in my days that where mine, my own time alone with my own thoughts. I really don’t think I would have been able to cope for the last five years without running. People always ask me how I have time or why I get up so early to train but when you’ve spent years watching people so out of breath they can’t walk a couple of steps even the fact I’m able to run is a reason to run, I’m so grateful and it’s a privilege not an effort, I just wish everyone could experience it. Earlier this year after living back in hospital for 5 long months Aaron got his transplant and next year thanks to his brave donor and their amazing family he will be at the finish line at the London marathon cheering me on.

Without his donor and their family allowing the transplant to go ahead it’s likely that Aaron wouldn’t have survived the rest of this year. We owe them everything, not a day goes by we don’t think about his donor or their family and we could never thank them enough. Aaron is going to live his life for his donor and I’m going to carry on raising money and awareness for organ donation. It really is the one and only way you can actually save somebody’s life, possibly multiple people’s lives. Aaron is still recovering but already life is so much better and easier for us both. The long runs on my own are starting to be filled with hopeful thoughts and plans for our future and I owe how much life’s turned around already to a total stranger, their family and the amazing teams at the Freeman. It really is a miracle that we are on the other side five years after our lives stopped they are starting to move forward again and we are so grateful.


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