We catch up with transplant recipient Cara Hearst who is now living and working in England.
What have you been up to since qualifying as a nurse in 2013?
After three years of hard work at Queen’s University Belfast, I took the opportunity to travel to Australia and New Zealand. Like a lot of people, after my transplant I had a new lease of life and have since been living life to the full. My sister and I stayed in Dubai for a few days before arriving in Melbourne where we got to meet my 4 year old cousin for the first time, which was amazing. We drove down the Great Ocean Road, road-tripped around New Zealand staying in hostels and had a true Ozzie/New Zealand experience! I also met my boyfriend Andrew, who decided to “chat me up” on a train after watching V8 car races. He’s American, which has meant lots of travelling back and forth to Oklahoma and a trip to Vegas (no, there was no Elvis marrying us in a chapel!). I think a lot of people worry about travelling post-transplant but I just make sure I arrange good travel insurance cover, take plenty of extra medications in case anything goes missing and most importantly, enjoy it! I’ve had a few trips to doctors abroad and they have been very helpful – it helps to have a good travel insurer.
Shortly after returning, I decided I wanted a change of scenery and to start my nursing career in England. I got a job in a fantastic Neurology ward in Southampton where I have learned a huge amount since starting work. Medical/Healthcare courses are hard work physically as well as mentally. I found the 13 hour shifts very difficult at the beginning. I think it’s important to know my limitations and if I get tired doing shift work, I make sure that I tell someone so that they understand why I can get tired easily. Sometimes doing half-day shifts can be easier even though it means working more days each week, including the weekends. I learned the hard way by trying to do too much – you can make yourself ill if you don’t look after yourself at work!
Some people worry about getting infections/viruses from working with sick patients. Yes, I have a supressed immune system because of medication but it doesn’t stop me from doing a job that I love. The medical team in charge of my care advised me that a career in nursing would be fine. As a nurse/healthcare professional, part of the job is to adhere to the hospital’s infection control protocols in order to stop the spread of infection. As long as I stick to these precautions, I don’t get too worried. Obviously, I wouldn’t choose to work on an infectious diseases ward – that would be asking for trouble!
I now attend King’s College Hospital in London for my clinic appointments. It was very surreal going back after such a long time. Waiting in the outpatients room, which is opposite the Liver Intensive Therapy Unit, brought back lots of memories. It also made me extremely thankful for the past 6 years. For anyone waiting for a liver transplant, I am happy to tell you that the staff in King’s are wonderful and make the whole experience so much easier. I have to say though, outpatient’s clinic in the RVH is still hard to beat! I definitely miss all the friendly nurses and the brilliant consultants who dedicate so much of their time to us.
I’ll finish by mentioning my donor Daryl Turley, who is the reason I’m here today. Daryl was sadly killed in road accident aged 13. His mum and dad made the brave decision to donate his organs, saving lives. I have since met Daryl’s mum Lily, as some of you know. She is a wonderful and inspiring lady and I feel so lucky to have become her friend. We both know how fragile life can be and the importance of making the most of it. Stay positive and I wish everyone in the Liver Support Group the best of health.