Northampton woman set to celebrate incredible 20th anniversary of heart and lungs transplant

Doctors told Natasha’s parents that if the transplant extended her life by ten years it would be ‘very good’

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:45 am

A Northampton woman who was given a matter of weeks to live is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her heart and lungs transplant.

Natasha Roger, from Riverside, was born with Eisenmenger syndrome, which is a complication of having a hole in the heart and causes increased blood flood to the lungs’ arteries.

After being diagnosed at the age of 16, Natasha spent seven years in a stable condition, but then became really unwell for a number of years and was put on a transplant waiting list.

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Natasha Roger has lived a full life since her heart and lungs transplant in 2001.
Natasha Roger has lived a full life since her heart and lungs transplant in 2001.

As heart and lung donors do not come around often, Natasha waited a number of years and was even given two weeks to live, unless a suitable donor came along.

‘At the 11th hour’, a donor became available and the then 26-year-old was given the donor’s heart and lungs, but doctors said if the transplant added ten years to Natasha’s life it would be ‘really good’.

Twenty years on, Natasha, who also has a hearing disability, will celebrate the milestone transplant anniversary on Saturday (June 26), and her family wants to thank the NHS for its continued support.

Ann Rogers, Natasha’s mum, said: “As a child Natasha would run out of oxygen and would often be quite blue.

Natasha post transplant surgery nearly 20 years ago.

“It took ages for her to be diagnosed but she finally was at the age of 16.

“It was bizarre really as when they ring you to say they have potential organs that are suitable, you expect it to not be right and to be sent home again.

“But Natasha was very lucky and it was her first call. We were convinced we were going home, but it went ahead.

“They ran into theatre and told us to say our goodbyes and then the doors closed.”

Natasha’s father, Graham, added: “After being on the ‘waiting list’ for more than seven-and-a-half years, we never doubted that suitable organs would become available, but time was definitely running out.

“We were under no illusions that this was a ‘complete fix’ for Natasha’s condition.

“Any extra time we could have with her would be a bonus and as five years came, we looked forward to more.

“Then, as ten and 15 years passed by, Natasha was getting involved in activities that she could once only dream of.

“Could we get to 20 years. If so, we need to celebrate this marvellous achievement with a big party.”

Two decades on from the transplant, Ann says her daughter is fighting fit and even competes in the British Transplant Games where she has completed running relays, as well as fundraising runs for Harefield Hospital in Uxbridge where she had her transplant.

As well as sport, Natasha also enjoys many other hobbies, such as walking and, before the pandemic hit, was doing volunteer work.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the donor and their family,” Ann continued.

“It was a massive and very brave decision 20 years ago, especially as it wasn’t talked about as much, but all we can be is incredibly grateful, whoever they are and wherever they are.

“It really is the most amazing gift you could give to anyone.”

Although Natasha and her family have never known who donated the vital organs, nor have they ever met that person’s family, Natasha writes them a letter every year.

As the 20-year mark approaches, the family is planning a small celebration involving a takeaway and hope to celebrate the 21st next year in a bigger way once pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

As well as thanking the NHS for continued support and encouraging everyone to tell their next of kin of their own wishes regarding organ donation, Natasha and her parents are also thinking of and paying tribute to the donor’s family.

Graham added: “It will be 20 years since they lost their loved one and our thoughts and prayers will be concentrated around them.

“If it were not for their selfless decision, Natasha would not be with us today.

“For their generosity we owe them so much.

“We pray that they will find much comfort knowing that something good has come from their loss.”

More recently, Natasha also received a kidney from her sister after the transplant medication caused damage to her own kidney, so now Ann says Natasha has ‘three bits that don’t belong to her’.