‘Winning gold, silver and bronze was a miracle’ – Hitchin woman who had heart transplant in 2014 on her British Transplant Games medal haul

Helen Giffin (left) and the Papworth team captain, Maggie Gambrill (right).

Helen Giffin (left) and the Papworth team captain, Maggie Gambrill (right). - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin woman who for years never thought she would be able to exercise again, has spoken of the ‘miracle’ moment she won gold, silver and three bronze medals at the British Transplant Games.

As a child Helen Giffin loved to run, but at the age of 17, her athletic days came to an abrupt end when she collapsed during a half marathon in St Neots and was rushed to hospital – where medics discovered she had a heart condition.

Helen, who works for insurance firm LV= in Tilehouse Street, said: “I wasn’t allowed to exercise. About four years ago, at the age of 39, my heart had got so weak, and the condition got a lot worse.

“Papworth Hospital doctors told me I needed a heart transplant to survive. I couldn’t cook a meal standing and could only work for a few hours a day. I felt really ill.”

Thankfully, Helen received a heart transplant about two and a half years ago.


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It took about a year before she was able to start exercising properly – at which point she joined the same running club, North Herts Road Runners, that she was a part of at 17 – with some people recognising her from all those years ago when she rejoined.

With the support and encouragement of her local clubs, Helen won gold for the ladies 800m, silver for 50m backstroke, and bronze medals for the ladies 1500m, squash and table tennis at the British Transplant Games in Liverpool – something Helen and her husband Rob could never have dreamed of only a couple of years ago.

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The 43-year-old said: “When I got the medals, it was a miracle and a dream come true.

“I thought at 17 that I was never going to be able to exercise again – it was so overwhelming. I’m quite emotional just talking about it.

“My life has not only been saved, but also transformed.

“I can’t thank the family who chose to donate the organs enough.”

Helen says it has been ‘brilliant’ watching the Rio 2016 Olympics, and seeing Team GB winning medals –especially as it was during the London Olympics four years ago that she started feeling ill.

She said: “Without the willingness of potential organ donors and the amazing skills of the Papworth team, the situation would have been very different.

“Rob and I want to encourage more people to register as an organ donor, as a donation can make such a difference.”

You can become an organ donor by registering at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

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