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My name is Rhys Thomas. In my past life I was a Welsh international rugby player who played professionally for 10 years.
In 2012, at the age of 29, I suffered a massive heart attack that I was lucky to survive. I had a quadruple bypass and lost over 50% of my heart muscle. I needed an emergency heart transplant, but due to pulmonary hypertension, I was 'un-transplantable'.
At this stage I was given two options: see out the rest of my days, which the doctor advised was approximately 12 months, or have a machine called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted.
As a 30-year old father and husband with a young family, there was only one choice. The LVAD was sold as a ''bridge'' to transplant and would help reduce my pulmonary hypertension thus making me transplantable.
The UK has a three-tier transplant system with different lists (see link). Since having my LVAD fitted, I have been on all three donor lists at different times.
Living with a machine that has quite literally kept me alive for the past eight years has been tough both mentally and physically. During this time even an appendix op led to a blood clot in my LVAD, resulting in a huge haematoma and a silent stroke. All these traumas and challenging personal life circumstances led to a battle with alcohol addiction.
Thankfully, I am now 30 months sober, four stone (28kg) lighter and in the best state of health mentally and physically that I possibly can be living with a LVAD. I have learned exactly how precious life is and to be grateful for every day that I am able to watch my four beautiful children grow up.
The harsh reality, however, is that the clock is ticking.... I need a new heart if I want to extend my life. The longest anybody has ever survived with a LVAD in the UK is 11 years. In September I will be marking the eighth anniversary of my LVAD.
My doctors have told me that I won’t be eligible for a replacement LVAD machine due to the poor state of my heart with the large amount of scar tissue from the two previous operations. Because of the way the transplant system works in the UK, until my health deteriorates I will remain on the lowest list. The irony is I have less than 1% chance of receiving a donor heart as I am too ''healthy'' to go up to the urgent list!
To 'justify' a place on the urgent list I would need to get a severe infection in my wire (drive line) that goes into my stomach or my machine would need to stop. In both of these cases, the chance of survival would reduce massively even before making it onto the urgent list.
Given that I have no reasonable prospect of having a transplant in the UK, I have been forced to look for other alternatives. This involves buying onto a heart transplant list in another country. After extensive research and investigation, it's clear that South Africa, UAE and USA are all viable options for a heart transplant. I have decided that San Diego offers the best chance of receiving a suitable donor in addition to having an outstanding transplant team and aftercare facility.
A decision to travel abroad in order to have a heart transplant is not one that I have taken lightly. The last 10 years have been incredibly challenging for me and my family and I have learnt and lost a great deal. One thing I have found is myself! I have found an inner peace and love and I'm grateful for everyday I get to spend on this earth with my loved ones!
Yes, a transplant comes with substantial risk. But given the alternative, I’m happy to embrace that risk.
Thank you so much for all your incredible support and kindness. I will be forever grateful to every single person that is able help my cause through donating or sharing my page far and wide.
All my love,
All unused or additional funds will be donated to my chosen charity TAGfoundation (see link)
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Jan 27, 2023
Jan 27, 2023
Dec 21, 2022
Listened to your podcast with Jim H. Astonishing and very candid. Best of luck with your recovery.
Dec 19, 2022
Dec 15, 2022
Rhys, saw your story on Jim's show. Absolutely powerful story, look after yourself man! If you haven't already, start a podcast, you were good 👌PS You were a couple years ahead of my cousin at KES.
Dec 7, 2022
Nov 27, 2022
Pob lwc Rhys!
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About the fundraiser
My name is Rhys Thomas I am a 39 year old father of 4! My life has been a series of incredible highs and lows, on this wonderful journey I have have faced a great deal of adversity and i now need to ask for help to try raise a large sum of money to help me get a heart transplant!