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Joe wants to tell inspiring story on TV

PUBLISHED: 07:26 21 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:38 06 July 2010

Joe Matthews, who won three gold medals at the British Transplant Games.

Joe Matthews, who won three gold medals at the British Transplant Games.

When Joe Matthews was struck down with a rare heart condition aged just 19 and needed a vital transplant, his life was left hanging in the balance.

When Joe Matthews was struck down with a rare heart condition aged just 19 and needed a vital transplant, his life was left hanging in the balance.

Now, less than four years since being given a new heart and months after being crowned an international athletics champion, Joe is hoping to tell his story to the nation.

The 22-year-old, of Fleet Dyke Drive in Lowestoft, was given a transplant in April 2006 after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, known as cardiomyopathy, while at college in California.

Far from letting his condition get him down, the inspirational young man, who spent nearly a year away from his family home having treatment in America, has thrown all his energy into getting the most out of every day.

He has completed two London marathons, competed at the British Transplant Games in 2008 and spent this summer in Melbourne, Australia, representing Great Britain at the World Transplant Games, where he won a bronze and a gold medal on the track.

He said: “My life was turned upside down by my transplant, but I've never let anything stop me and now I'm using my experience to help raise awareness of organ donation.

“This year has been great, and competing in Australia was super. One of the best things was seeing so many people looking so fit and healthy after having transplants - other than scars, you would never know that any of them had been through such major surgery.”

Sports mad Joe, who is set to finish his degree in graphic communication in the summer, has to take 12 different drugs every day to stop infections and his body rejecting his heart, and will have to take them for the rest of his life.

Now he is hoping that his survival battle will become part of a television documentary and he has entered a BBC competition to win the chance to have his inspirational story broadcast in the hope of raising more awareness of the need for organ donors.

The My Story competition allows people to read stories posted online and vote for their favourite, with the five most popular going on to be broadcast on the BBC.

He said: “Organ donation's something which so many people aren't aware of, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to spread the word and show people how good life can be after having a transplant. Since being given this wonderful gift of life, I haven't turned my head at anything I've been faced with.

“There are still far too many people in the world who are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and because of the small numbers of people on the donation list, many of those people will die waiting.

“The more people who vote for my story, the more chance I have of being able to use my experiences to hopefully save other lives by promoting organ donation.”

To read and vote for Joe's story, visit www.bbc.co.uk/mystory/ stories/celebration/162557.

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