MORE than a decade has now passed since former Selkirk High School pupil Kate Ball underwent a life-saving heart transplant operation.
Eleven years later and now a freelance journalist living in Edinburgh with husband Chris, Kate has never forgotten how lucky she was to receive a new heart.
To this end, 30-year-old Kate – whose parents, John and Mary Smail, live at Lindean – and Chris are taking part in a national poster campaign to raise awareness of organ donation.
The couple travelled to London earlier this month where they posed for a photo session with top celebrity snapper Rankin.
The campaign centres round couples where either one or both have undergone an organ transplant.
“I’ve been involved with the charity, Live Life then Give Life, from the beginning of this year,” Kate told The Wee Paper this week.
“I am one of a group known as ‘advocates’ for the charity, with the aim of helping raise awareness and helping fundraising. I got a call from them a couple of weeks ago asking if I’d like to be involved in this new national poster campaign and I was happy to agree.”
The photo session for National Transplant Week called for Kate to reveal the 12-inch scar running down her chest – a permanent reminder of how lucky she is to be alive.
It was, she told us, something she did not need to take too long to think about.
“I don’t go around showing off my scar to all and sundry, but when it is a photo shoot by someone like Rankin and it’s for such a good cause, I was happy to do it and it went really well.”
It was as a 19-year-old student at Edinburgh University that Kate first become unwell, and in January 2001 she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition which attacks the muscles in the heart. Five months later and with her health deteriorating rapidly, she received a new heart in a five-hour operation at the famous Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
With her health restored, Kate went on to gain two degrees and travel extensively.
Now working in both print and radio, Kate knows she owes the quality of life she enjoys to her donor and wants to help spread the word about organ donation.
She says the dark days of her illness seem such a long time ago.
“My health’s been absolutely fine since then – thanks to getting a new heart. That’s why I was happy to be involved with this campaign.
“What I would say to people prepared to register as donors is speak to your families first and make sure they know your wishes. It can make the difference between life and death for someone on a waiting list,” Kate stressed.