In 1998, Andy Cook was told he had just two days to live. But when a donor heart became available, a transplant saved his life. He now works full time in an outdoor job he loves, and travels the world to meet other transplant recipients.
Andy, from Halesowen in the Midlands, was 37 when he developed cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the heart to become enlarged.
"I had a cough that my doctor couldn't cure and, after several visits, I became more and more short of breath," Andy says.
"I was admitted to the Wordsley Hospital in Stourbridge, where I was diagnosed as having fluid on the chest that was affecting my heart. A little later, I was told I had cardiomyopathy."
Six days after he was admitted to hospital, Andy had two heart attacks. He was treated, but his condition got worse and he was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for a transplant assessment.
His consultant told him that he needed a transplant, and he was put on the transplant list and sent back to the Wordsley to wait.
"Over the next few weeks, my condition worsened and the need for a donor heart became more desperate. My weight plunged from 11 stone to just 7."
With time running out, a donor heart became available, and Andy was transferred back to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
"The last thing I remember before the operation was the needle being put into the back of my hand. When I woke up, I was being transferred from intensive care to a ward after two days of sedation."
Bit by bit, Andy regained his strength, but his journey back to health had some setbacks.
"After I had been allowed home, I spent the next six weeks in and out of hospital with rejection, a stomach problem, a collapsed lung and another related problem.
"I finally came out of hospital the week before Christmas 1998, and returned to work as a gardener 13 weeks after the transplant.
"I genuinely believe that if you follow medical advice, you will be back to your previous fitness and way of life. I am very grateful for all the help and treatment I received."
A heart transplant is an operation to replace a damaged or failing heart with a healthy heart from a donor who has recently died. It may be recommended when a person's life is at risk because their heart no longer works effectively.
As donor hearts are scarce, you'll need to be assessed carefully to determine whether a heart transplant is suitable, if your doctor thinks you could benefit from one. The final decision about whether you are suitable for a heart transplant is a joint decision made by the transplant team.
Because of the lack of available hearts, it's rarely possible to have a heart transplant as soon as it's needed, so you'll usually be placed on a waiting list. It may be several months, or possibly years, before a donor heart of the right size and blood groups becomes available.
A heart transplant is carried out with you unconscious under general anaesthetic , and normally takes between four and six hours. You'll be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which will take over the functions of the heart and lungs while the transplant is being carried out.
Read about what you can expect after a heart transplant and when you can return to your normal activities.
A heart transplant is a major operation, and there is a risk of several complications. Some complications can occur soon after the procedure, while others may develop months or even years later.
In 1998, Andy Cook was told he had just two days to live. But when a donor heart became available, a transplant saved his life. Bit by bit, Andy regained his strength, but his journey back to health had some setbacks.