Bearsden baton bearer’s heartwarming story

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A woman who made a miraculous recovery after a heart transplant carried the Queen’s Baton to the hospital which saved her life.

Suzanne Swinson (61) from Bearsden, was the official baton bearer at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank last Friday, where she had her life-saving operation in 2011.

She went hillwalking regularly before doctors told her that she had advanced heart failure in 2008, when she was only 55.

At first she didn’t believe the diagnosis because she felt perfectly healthy - the only reason she’d visited her GP was because she had a cough.

However, three years later her condition was so bad that she was unable to walk more than 100 yards without stopping and relied on a balloon pump to maintain the beat of her heart.

She was placed on the transplant waiting list and within six weeks she was admitted to hospital as a donor was found.

After her transplant she fought her way back to fitness by climbing hills, walking and going to the gym most days at the Allander Leisure centre.

She also began skiing lessons with a professional coach, Rachel Eastwood, in March 2012.

Initially her aim was just to get down a course but as she improved she wanted a bigger challenge and decided to take part in the world winter transplant games in La Chapelle d’Abondance, Haute-Savoie, in France.

Suzanne, who is married with two grown up sons, won silver medals for giant slalom and slalom, bronze for parallel slalom and her team was also awarded silver for slalom.

The team, which she skippered, also scooped gold for curling at the event.

Suzanne will be greeted by NHS staff and more than 40 other heart transplant patients as she carries the Queen’s baton through the hospital ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Suzanne (61) said: “It was an incredible honour to be part of the Queen’s Commonwealth games baton relay but to be given the opportunity to carry it through the Golden Jubilee was absolutely fantastic.

“I am delighted that so many individuals who have had heart transplants got to be a part of the day, not only to give them a chance to experience the event first hand, but to pay tribute to the donors and their families who made this possible.

“This is also a wonderful chance to say thank you to all the staff for their excellent care and highlight the lifesaving work that the hospital carries out on a daily basis.

“All transplant recipients are encouraged to get active, be healthy and take part in sporting events. Hopefully having the opportunity to carry the baton will serve as an inspiration to everyone to take advantage of having the Commonwealth Games here in Glasgow.

“I found it a very emotional experience and such a privilege to carry the baton through the transplant unit.

“The atmosphere was amazing, I picked up the baton and turned round and saw a sea of faces - children waving at me and people with flags.

“I was overwhelmed by it all - when I came out of hospital after my transplant I had no idea what I’d be able to do - I never imagined I’d be well enough to run.

“I’d never have guessed that I’d carry the Queen’s baton for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.”

Since her transplant Suzanne has been working hard to raise awareness of the importance of kidney donation and transplants.

She also continues to ski and plans to take part in this sport and curling in the world winter transplant games in 2016.

Suzanne has also been busy learning a new sport – lawn bowls – so that she can compete in the British Transplant Games in Bolton this August.