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Heart transplant gives Bryan another shot at gold

A severe heart attack 13 years ago left Bryan, a former NZ skating representative, with no quality of life. He couldn’t manage cardiac rehab, let alone play sport. But a heart transplant has allowed him to once again compete at a national and international level.

Bryan talks about his heart transplant and going to the Transplant Olympics

As a former New Zealand skating representative and a regular mountain biker and gym goer, Bryan had always been a fit man – he never dreamt he was a candidate for heart disease. But 13 years ago he suffered a severe heart attack and subsequently underwent triple bypass surgery.

For a few days his life hung in the balance and the doctors debated switching off his life support machine. He survived, but his life had changed dramatically.

“I didn’t have any quality of life, my heart had been so severely damaged,” he explains.

Unable even to manage cardiac rehab classes, Bryan felt he was near the end of his life. He married his long-time partner on his 60th birthday so that he could be certain she would be provided for in the event of his death.

“That was my 60th birthday and the general consensus was I wasn’t going to be here for my 61st birthday,” Bryan recalls.

But later that same year Bryan’s life was to change again. He was lucky enough to receive a heart transplant. “I am very very grateful to the family for that gift of life,” he adds.

Since then he has rekindled his sporting passions. He is once again mountain biking and working out in the gym three or four times a week. He has amassed more than 50 medals at NZ Masters Games, Australian Transplant Games and World Transplant Games. Later this month he will again represent New Zealand at the 2017 World Transplant Games in Spain.

Bryan believes finding a physical activity you can enjoy doing is a great way to rehabilitate both the body and the mind.

“There’s always something you can do, isn’t there? Even if you’re sick you can still try and do things - even if it’s just sitting there and moving your legs, moving your arms, just something to keep your body moving. You can go walking, you can go aqua-jogging, if you’re physically capable you can play golf, you can go ten-pin bowling. There are so many activities out there. You can go dancing or anything. Anything like that that takes your mind off it and gives you something to do - and something to look forward to doing.”

And he says it’s important to remind yourself that your health will improve. “That’s a big part of it, getting your head around the fact that you are going to get better.”

Shared May 2017


Update August 2017

Bryan picked up two silver medals at the 2017 World Transplant Games in Malaga, Spain. In gruelling temperatures of up to 37 C, he was successful in the 5km walk and the ten pin bowling singles in the 70-79 age category.

Please note: the views and opinions of the storyteller and related comments may not necessarily reflect those of the Heart Foundation NZ.

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1 Comment

  • Gail 21 June 2017

    Bryan,  I congratulate you for your great attitude and inspirational story.  My heart surgery story is pretty mundane compared to yours. I’ve had some stumbling blocks to deal with but, like you I too am a determined type and so I agree with you whole heartedly that a positive attitude goes a long way to healing.  Enjoy the 2017 World Transplant Games in Italy - what an achievement!