Heart transplant ends 'lifetime of sickness' for Christchurch woman

Transplant recipients around New Zealand shared their gratitude on Sunday by walking and running in memory of their donors.

One Christchurch woman says there are no words to describe how thankful she is for a new heart.

Heidi Harty-Eugster was born with a genetic heart condition. Up until a few months ago, she could barely walk to the letterbox.

"The week of transplant, I didn't know how much longer I was going to last," she told Newshub.

A new heart has changed all that. She spent Sunday afternoon walking in the Christchurch hills with her family for Thank You Donor Day, when organ and tissue recipients around the country take part in activities to honour their donors.

"It's been a lifetime of sickness for me - pretty much 38 years," she said.

"The transplant was my fourth open heart surgery, so I've never known ever what it's like to be really well."

She can't name her donor because of privacy rules, but says they have changed her life.

"Even mundane tasks are really fun now. Going to the supermarket, doing the school run, doing chores are fun."

Her family can't believe how far she's come, and say she's embraced her new life in every sense.

"Now she can go on lots of family outings and I don't have to carry her handbag anymore," said daughter Coco.

"We're just so excited about what we can do as a family and do things for the first time," added husband Chris.

Ms Harty-Eugster says there are no words to describe how thankful she is for her new lease of life.

"They haven't just given it to me, but they've given it to my whole family."

She wants prospective donors to remember that just ticking the donor box on their driver licence isn't enough - they need to have the backing of family as well.