A Maltese mother can begin to lead a normal life again after she received a transplant from a cow’s organ.
Shirley Fenech lived a normal life until 2016 when suddenly she fainted, lost consciousness and ended up in hospital. She was told that she would have to go abroad to have a heart operation.
”By the time I went to Emergency they realised that I had a heart problem and they started carrying out tests. They found that I had a pulmonary valve which was leaking a lot of blood. I had to go to the UK to have it changed,” she explained.
There, Shirley was told she needed to have a valve transplant.
”They inserted a cow’s valve. Here in Malta, I learned about it from the cardiologist who told me. I asked her ‘is this from a cow or something?’ because I was very curious about what I had inside of me. That’s when she confirmed that it was a cow’s valve,” Shirley added.
Shirley describes how she felt when she learned of this.
”It was a huge shock, and myself, my husband and my mother, the three of us left her office completely stunned,” she says.
This was not the first time that Shirley has experienced heart problems.
”This was my second open heart surgery. The first time was when I was four years old. I still had to travel to the UK to change the same valve.”
Shirley said that although she did not feel anything and had continued to lead a normal life, the tests showed that she required an urgent operation.
”I was fit, living a normal life and was even going to the gym. They could not understand how it could be that with all the blood I was losing, I was not breathless and was still doing cardio, leading a normal life, with a full-time job, doing the housework… they could not understand how I was not even feeling tired,” she said.
In February of last year, Shirley had her operation at Barts hospital which was successful, but she knows that in 20 years’ time she will have to have another operation.
”Today I feel very good, I go to the gym six times a week, for an hour and a half each time.”
With a smile on her face, Shirley said that the cow’s valve saved her life and that if it were not for this operation she would not be able to enjoy her life and her family.
If you were to need a transplant, would you accept a pig’s organ?