When Jill Pugh completed a fundraising trek of the Great Wall of China in 2012 she had no idea she had a potentially fatal condition that could have stopped her heart at any time.
In August last year, she was diagnosed with a rare condition that had gone undetected since birth. Her heart had been ‘plumbed’ the wrong way round.
She now faces a heart transplant in the next two years and wants to raise awareness of organ donor registration.
Jill, 51, who runs the concierge office at Coutts House in Onchan where her husband Bri is caretaker, said: ‘It was a miracle I survived China. I shouldn’t have flown there in the first place and my heart could have stopped at any time.’
She completed the China trek in September 2012 with her sister Jan, daughter Claire and her friend Diana who was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Between them they raised more than £12,000 for Macmillan Cancer Care.
Jill had a pacemaker fitted at the age of 30 to correct what was thought to be a simple heart condition. But having completed the trek, she knew something was far more seriously wrong.
She said: ‘I knew I didn’t feel right. I had previously gone to my GP on several occasions saying I couldn’t lose weight and was constantly tired. But all tests proved there was nothing wrong with me. After the trek I continued to feel exhausted.
‘Instead of feeling excited and proud the last day, I felt humiliated and totally deflated. I couldn’t understand why I seemed to be so unfit when I had been walking three times a week training for the trek and endured six days, six hours per day on the actual trek. Some days I could hardly put one foot in front of the other.’
A few months later she had a new pacemaker but even then didn’t feel much better. Then she developed a flu-like virus so her GP referred her for a echocardiograph test.
It was then it was discovered she was born with ventricle transposition where her larger left ventricle that was supposed to pump blood to the body was instead going to her lungs while the smaller right ventrical was pumping blood round her whole body rather than just to her lungs.
As a result, she had developed a condition called cardiomyopathy for which there is no cure and will require a heart transplant in a couple of years’ time.
Jill said: ‘I can hold my head up high as not only did I trek the Great Wall of China in extreme heat, enduring extremely challenging and gruelling terrain, but I did it with a much challenged heart. I now feel proud - very proud.’
Now she wants more people to sign up as organ donors.
There are at present about 11,000 people in the island registered on the donor register.
‘That’s not bad for a population of 85,000!’ she said.
‘I have for the first time really appreciated this wonderful gesture that can save lives.’
To become a donor all you have to do is go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk and you can also visit www.bhf.org.uk to make a financial donation.
Jill is staging some fund-raising events in the summer, one of them being a Ladies Lunch at the Hop Garden following a successful event at the Abbey Restaurant. She said: ‘I am positive about the future and take every day as it comes.
‘Something like this gives you the opportunity to really appreciate life’s beauty and to savour every moment.’