Colin grateful for ‘second chance’ at life

11 June 2024
Colin Gray

Second chance at life

Colin returned to work with Scottish Water about six months after his heart transplant.

Inverness leakage technician Colin Gray has spoken of his gratitude at having a ‘second-chance’ at life after receiving a heart transplant last year. 
Colin (61), who received his donor heart in September 2023 at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow, has recently returned to his role as a leakage technician with Scottish Water. Following a phased return, he is now back working full-time.  
He says he wants to prove to himself that he can return to a normal life after the major operation and urged people to consider carrying an organ donor card. 
Colin said: “Even though there is now an opt out scheme in Scotland, I would like to do anything I can to encourage people to carry a donor card or to have that conversation with their families so there is no confusion about their wishes should that situation ever occur. I feel a bit of a hypocrite as I never used to carry a card myself, but I do now and so does my wife.  
“I am in the process of trying to contact the family of my donor. I just want to thank them and let them know I’m doing well and that is all thanks to their loved one agreeing to donate their organs. I think my donor helped saved the lives of five people, myself included. It is an amazing gift but it is sad to know that it took somebody’s end of life to allow me this second chance.” 
Colin was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy 15 years ago, following a heart attack on Christmas Eve 2008. He called NHS 24 after struggling with breathlessness and losing the ability to sleep, but an ambulance was dispatched after he was advised it could be something more serious. On being admitted to Raigmore Hospital, he then suffered a heart attack. 
Cardiomyopathy is a disease which affects the heart muscle and makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body. 
Colin explained: “They tried to treat it with medication to start with, then when that wasn’t working, I had a pacemaker fitted and over the years I had to have two battery changes. 
“Then in February 2023, the symptoms were getting worse again and that’s when it hit me quite hard – the doctor came round and said, ‘Colin, I don’t know how to tell you this but there’s nothing else we can do and we’re going to refer you to the Golden Jubilee for a heart transplant.’ I was really shocked and at that point, I did question whether I was going to die.” 
After being added to the transplant list, Colin initially got the call to say a donor heart was available in August but that fell through after it was deemed to be in too poor a condition to complete the operation. On waking up in theatre, the surgical team had to break the news to him that it had not been viable. 
He said: “I was gutted. I just thought I’m going to have to put myself through this again at some point, having to psych myself up for the operation. But I knew it had to happen so I tried to stay as calm as possible. It was out of my hands.” 
Following the successful transplant in September, Colin had to spend a month in hospital before he was allowed to return home but noticed the difference from his new heart almost immediately. Six months later, he is back to work full-time and enjoys walking his four dogs daily. 
He said: “They were quite surprised at the Golden Jubilee that I wanted to return to work but I want to prove to myself that I can get back to normal, that I can do this job and hopefully do it better than I was in the lead up to the operation – that is important to me.  
“I enjoy the role, I just like being out in the open. Last week I had to go to one of the sites that I last visited a few weeks before I had my operation and it involved going up a bit of a hill. Before the operation, I was getting breathless and having to stop every 10 yards or so but when I did it last week, although I did get breathless, I was able to do it in one go and I could really see the difference between the two visits. 
“I’m not quite back to normal but I’m noticing both at home and at work that there are things I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do before.” 
Colin added: “I’m so grateful for all the support that I’ve had from the Golden Jubilee hospital throughout the whole process, from the team at Raigmore Hospital during my rehabilitation and Scottish Water in supporting me in coming back to work.  
“If there is anyone in the Highlands who is on the transplant list who would like to speak to someone who had gone through the process then I am always happy to have a conversation with them and to share my experiences.”