EMMA Craven gives thanks every day to her lifesaver.

“I know he was called John; he was 41, he was a grandfather and very close to his family,” she says.

The 38-year-old, from Bingley, has corresponded with and passed on her thanks to John’s family - after all, it is down to them that she is here today - and she is determined to make the most of every day - for John.

“I am just so really grateful to John and his family. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here,” she says, referring to the ‘gift of life’ she was given.

By the time Emma received her new heart time was beginning to run out. Just before her 30th birthday Emma was diagnosed with an inherited form of the condition dilated cardiomyopathy which causes the heart muscle to become stretched and weakened, meaning the heart is less able to pump blood around the body efficiently.

“I was really shocked because I thought if I hadn’t had any symptoms by then I must have not got the gene,” says Emma, referring to the fact that her sister, Jenny, had also been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. They had also lost their father, David to a heart problem when he was just 40.

Both siblings had an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) fitted following their diagnosis with the condition.

“It was decided that I needed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to make sure my heart rhythm was controlled. I was also put on beta-blockers to reduce the strain on my heart,” explains Emma.

She was progressing well until 2015 when her health problems worsened to the extent where her life was literally hanging in the balance.

“My heart was failing and I went downhill very quickly. I was so weak and breathless that I could barely move. It was horrible, and I felt completely helpless,” recalls Emma.

“I called my GP as I felt so bad and they called an ambulance to take me to the hospital. When they arrived at my flat they nearly broke down the door because it took me so long to answer, as I was so ill. I live in a block of flats and they ended up having to carry me down the stairs on a stretcher as I just couldn’t make it by myself.”

Emma was admitted to Airedale Hospital but her recollections of what happened next were vague. “I don’t remember much about it except waking up a few days l after I arrived with all my family around me looking sad and worried,” she recalls.

After being told Emma only had a few hours to live, her family were asked if she could be given a new drug which helped to stabilise her condition. She was then transferred to a specialist cardiac unit at Wythenshawe hospital.

“They put me on a special machine called a LVAD, which is a bit like a mechanical heart, and I had to stay on that to wait for a heart to become available,” explains Emma.

She spent a week in an induced coma after having the device fitted. “When I came around I had so many tubes going in and out of me it was really scary,” she says.

“I was also freezing cold, and I felt really hungry because I was receiving food through a tube and I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. I couldn’t talk and they gave me a tracheostomy so I had a pipe in my throat.”

During her time in hospital, Emma began her bucket list - important things she wanted to achieve such as spending more time with her nephew, who is now eight, learning to drive and booking a holiday.

Emma spent around seven weeks attached to the LVAD. She also had regular physiotherapy exercises to maintain her strength to enable her to go on the urgent transplant list.

“I thought I would be waiting for ages,” says Emma. “Once I was on the list I was very lucky, I only waited nine days for my new heart.

“It was a really tough time but I am really grateful to John.”

Following an eight hour operation Emma recalls feeling better almost immediately and visitors, including her friends and fellow colleagues from the Co-op in Bingley commented on how well she looked.

“I am still doing really well and feel incredibly lucky to be here after my experience,” says Emma, who has six monthly check-ups with her consultant.

Within a few months Emma was back at work at the Co-op in Bingley and she is already working her way through her bucket list spending time with her nephew, learning to drive and she’s also looking forward to a forthcoming holiday to Tenerife.

“My Mum still calls me a miracle,” says Emma.

“It’s really hard to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t had the operation when I did.”

Emma’s mum Rachel struggles to contain her emotions when recalling what has been an ‘horrendous experience’ losing her husband, David, and both daughters being diagnosed with a heart condition.

Then to have to face potentially losing Emma. “I thought she was going to die,” recalls Rachel, who cannot thank John and his family enough.

“I am so grateful,” says Rachel, who has carried a donor card for years and hopes to encourage others to do the same.

Conscious of the research carried out by the British Heart Foundation which contributed to heart transplants initially taking place, Emma wanted to support the charity and help others.

Along with her family, friends and fellow supporters Paul Robinson and Michelle Chapman, Emma helped to set up the Bingley BHF fundraising group. She hopes more people will join her to help organise future fundraising events.

“I thought it would be great to give something back because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here,” says Emma.

The group held a bucket collection at Bingley Co-op on World Heart Day (Saturday September 29), they plan to have a stall selling BHF merchandise at the same venue to coincide with Re-Start a Heart Day today (October 16) and aim to raise their profile at Bingley Christmas lights switch-on.

Sue Green, the BHF’s fundraising manager for West Yorkshire, says: “Emma has had a terrifying ordeal, but is thankfully now doing really well. Her story goes to show exactly why heart and circulatory disease research is so important, as without the incredible pioneering treatments Emma received, she might not be here today. The money raised through the Bingley fundraising group will help fund BHF research into heart and circulatory conditions, including inherited conditions like Emma’s, so we can beat heartbreak forever.”

For more information contact Sue Green, BHF Fundraising Manager on 07714 069 120 or email greens@bhf.or.uk.