Pukekohe’s Keith Eades will be lining up at the ASB Auckland Marathon on 29 October to race for a cause. But unlike many others who may be racing for themselves, Keith is proving that this obstacle is just one of many that he’s ready to overcome.
Keith was born with Holt Oram syndrome, which causes a defect in the arms and the heart.
What will be making this marathon more special is the fact that he will be doing it with his transplant twin Diane Plimmer.
Diane received lungs from a donor, while Keith got the heart.
“It has given me a new zest for life. I don’t want to just bob along. I can give it a go. Life is about that.”
At the age of 22, Keith was told he needed a pacemaker, because of Holt Oram syndrome.
A lover of squash, Keith says as soon as he was out of hospital, he was back at work and playing squash.
“You can sit back and feel sorry for yourself, or get up and do something.”
Having a support person is something Keith strongly emphasises.
His wife of 22 years, Caroline, has been a vital support throughout his health journey.
In 2014, Keith began having breathing problems and was taken to Middlemore Hospital.
“They told me I needed a heart transplant. It completely wiped me.”
“I didn’t expect it, but I decided to fight it. I wasn’t ready to give up on life.”
He exercised, walking up and down the ward all night long. “I was focused on moving forward. Things slowly improved. They decided I was too well to have a transplant, so life continued.”
But then in May 2016, the breathing issues were back. “I had more tests, then they gave me an iron infusion, which my body severely reacted to.”
After a near-death experience because of the reaction, a determined Keith asked, “Can I still go home tonight?”
However, after that near-death experience, Keith had lost much of his confidence and energy. It was decided by doctors that a heart transplant would be necessary.
Keith and Caroline were both required to attend clinics for four days, visiting professionals from psychologists to physios to assess them for the challenges that would lie ahead.
“After we passed, we were put on the active waiting list. It means you sit by the phone 24/7 as an organ could come in at any time.”
Five days after being put on the list, there was the potential that a heart could be ready.
“I was shell-shocked,” Keith said. “I wasn’t prepared. You expect it to take months before a suitable organ could be ready.”
The heart, however, wasn’t suitable, which was somewhat a relief for Keith, but not so much for his family.
It wasn’t long though until another heart was available in July 2016. “This time I was mentally prepared.”
While he was in the ward recovering, he met his transplant twin, Diane who received the lungs. They were both transferred to Hearty Towers in Greenlane, a facility that helps the rehabilitation of transplant patients.
Diane was the one who inspired Keith to get up.
“She was up walking, and I thought if she can do it, so can I.”
Now part of Franklin Toastmasters, Keith hopes to be able to share his story, and the importance of organ donation. “Organ donations save lives.”
One organ donation can save eight people’s lives and affect 56 people.
Keith hopes to write a book one day. “The potential is there,” he said, “but for now it’s a pipe dream.”
Next on his list, after the marathon, Keith said “I’d like to have a game of squash, and do a skydive from 20,000 feet.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, I’m just staying open to life.”