In January 2018, barely a month after his 70th birthday, John became the oldest person to receive a heart transplant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

I woke early one morning in April 2013 with my heart racing so fast that my wife called an ambulance and I was taken to hospital with suspected heart failure. After various tests it was found that I had a rare heart disease, Amyloidosis. My heart continued to deteriorate until, in July 2017, I was referred for a heart transplant.

The wait for a donor was an emotional one and it wasn’t until the 7th heart to become available was declared suitable that John underwent the operation. Fortunately, it was successful, and his recovery was swift. Three weeks later, John returned home.

“For the first month, I could hardly do anything,” he remembers. “When I got back on my feet, my leg muscles had all but disappeared. The days when I used to play rugby, cricket and squash felt a long way away.”

John was referred to our Exercise Referral programme, run by highly qualified British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (BACPR) instructors, which provides specialist exercise and support to individuals who have a long-term health condition, disability or who are rehabilitating from an illness or injury. “It would have been unsafe for me to use a regular gym, with no experience of how to gauge my own fitness programme,” says John, a retired Design Engineer. “I desperately needed some help and guidance in a controlled environment.”

“The Exercise Referral team are friendly, knowledgeable and very professional. They have encouraged me to get moving and build up my strength through steady exercise but stop me from pushing myself too hard.”

“Without the YMCA, I would have been restricted to walking my way to fitness,” says John, “and yet simple actions like crossing the road were daunting, as I felt so unsteady. Now, my aim is to be able to do more around the house and to look after my garden.”

This year, our Exercise Referral programme has received 227 referrals. There have been 6,942 visits to specialist ER fitness classes and 10,993 ER gym visits. The team have also introduced a new falls prevention class, aimed at older adults who are unsteady on their feet.

“I consider myself so incredibly fortunate,” says John. “Firstly, that I have been given this second chance at living a healthy life and seeing my small grandchildren grow older. And secondly, that I am able to benefit from the Exercise Referral programme and the expertise of the YMCA staff.”

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