Britain’s longest-surviving heart-lung transplant patient, Nicola Langlands, has died.
Nicola, 37, of Pevensey Bay, was born with only half a heart. There followed a long and nail-biting wait for the right donor organs to become available. Throughout this time Nicola’s attitude remained stoically optimistic.
Nicola’s operation was eventually performed at Harefield Hospital in September 1989 by the world-renowned Professor Magdi Yacoub (later knighted for his work). Tiny Nicola, her growth stunted by her condition, was just 13.
The brilliant work of Professor Yacoub and his team extended Nicola’s life – an opportunity which, from the earliest stage, she grasped to its fullest extent. As she often recalled, in later life she defied doctors in order to have her beloved daughter, Megan, now 15. But Nicola did much more besides for she never ceased to battle her condition or to work to highlight the need for donor organs for others.
Professor Yacoub had extended Nicola’s life. But such surgical miracles come at a terrible cost. From then on Nicola was dependent on powerful drugs which stopped her body rejecting the donor organs. Eventually, the bill for that had to be paid.
Nicola died in the District General Hospital at Eastbourne on December 2. Her family was with her.
She had never stopped battling her condition or campaigning. Though ailing in the past two years, she had maintained a punishing schedule of talks to organisations across the South East.
Only when the internet tributes began pouring in did her family find out how many fellow transplant patients across the world Nicola had been supporting.
One of her last acts was to host the Love and Laughter Show at the Devonshire Park Theatre in September, featuring local Britain’s Got Talent finalist Steve Hewlett. The ventriloquist had “adopted” Nicola and Look Beyond The Heart, the charity she was founding to support the families of transplant patients.
Throughout her long struggle Nicola was supported with practical and energetic devotion by her family. To her parents Lynn and Jim Langlands, her sister Jessica, her brothers Tom and Alex, her husband Neil Thomas and, of course, Megan, will go the sympathies of countless people for whom Nicola’s story will always be remembered as one of boundless personal courage and sheer zest for life. The celebration of her life will be at St Mary The Virgin Church, Westham at noon on December 20.