IT HAD been a routine Sunday, until Claire Davies got the phone call that changed her life.

She leaned out of the window, called outside to her husband John, and headed to hospital.

By the time she returned home six weeks later, the 34-year-old from Acomb, York, had a new heart and a new lease of life, ending a battle with heart disease stretching back 20 years.

Three times before that crucial phone call had ended in disappointment, when the intended heart proved unsuitable and the transplant had to be postponed.

But for Claire, a trained occupational therapist, it was fourth time lucky.

Today, seven months after her operation and exactly 100 days after The Press launched its Lifesavers campaign, Claire told her amazing story and urged people across our region to join the national Organ Donor Register, so they too could save a life.

“People talk about winning the lottery, but I already have,” she said.

“People say I was unlucky, but I got the organ I needed. That’s winning the lottery for me. It’s good luck, and it has only happened because someone has been on the register.”

Claire’s story began when she was 14, when she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that affects one in 5,000 people and causes the heart muscles to thicken.

At first, the only impact was that Claire was told not to take part in sport. But by the time she was 18, she suffered from angina and at 21, her heart began beating irregularly.

“From then on, it was a bit of a downhill slope,” she said. “The arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) became more of an issue.”

Claire’s condition rarely requires a transplant, but her strain was worse than most, and in 2008 doctors delivered the bombshell news that she needed the operation.

“It was scary. They were saying that if I didn’t do it, then in a couple of years I could be in real trouble.

“Around the time I went on the list, the 2008 Olympics were on. My husband John and I talked about going to London in 2012, and we realised that without the transplant that probably would not happen.

“It took us by surprise, but my heart failure had reached a point where we would need a new one.”

Claire spent 18 months on the list, facing endless uncertainty and suspense.

“You are constantly at the beck and call of somebody else, waiting for someone to ring,” she said. “Even only going to Birmingham, I had to let them know I was leaving the city and where I would be.”

Twice, Claire was called to The Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, only for coronary disease to be discovered in the intended transplant heart.

A third time, she had to dash north from a break in Ross-on-Wye, but the heart had stopped working by the time it was removed from the donor.

The wait and disappointments were exhausting and by last summer Claire’s condition was worsening. “It was on my fourth call that I got it,” she said.

“We were just in the process of trying to get a stairlift fitted to get up the stairs as I was deteriorating quicker than previously.

“The phone rang on a Sunday evening at 8pm. My husband was outside and I leaned out of the window and said: ‘That’s Newcastle.’ We thought we would be a few hours, and thought ‘here we go again’. But when I had been there two or three hours, someone came in with a tray of tablets and a gown and I thought ‘it’s happening’.”

The operation, on August 3, lasted six hours, and Claire spent three weeks in hospital and a further three in a hospital flat nearby. Seven months on, she still needs semi-regular clinic checks and biopsies, and she says her medication makes her look more round-faced than before, but she is enjoying her new lease of life to the full.

She said: “Between having it done and Christmas was a really long period because I was not feeling as well as I was hoping. You expect it to be a miracle pill, and it’s not.

“But straight after Christmas it was like we went over the brow of the hill and everything started to look so much better.”

Claire has now begun cycling again round her quiet cul-de-sac in Acomb, and she is also embarking on her own business, selling home-made preserves, jams and gifts.

Her company, Grace, will make its debut with a stall at Castle Howard on April 6, and Claire says it will be “the start of the new part of my life”.

It’s a life in which she will be a shining example of the importance of organ donation and of campaigns like Lifesavers.

“I have always been in favour of being an organ donor but until it affects you, you cannot really appreciate how important it is.

“I cannot offer enough thanks to the family of my donor, because they have done a very selfless thing,” she said.

“They have allowed me to have a better life.”

How to join

To join the Organ Donation Register, phone 0300 123 23 23 or visit or text SAVE to 84118.