I should have died, now I live life to the full.

 

A HEART transplant patient who “died” on the operating table has defied doctors’ jump warnings and gone on to play rugby, run marathons and even make a parachute.

 

Fitness fanatic Joe Matthews, 25, feels he owes it to the donor of his new heart to live life to the full. While recovering from his operation in 2006 he wrote to the donor’s family.

 

“ I wanted to let them know their loved one would get a good life out of me,” he said. “I owed it to both of us to make the most of the amazing second chance the donor had given me.”

 

The Yorkshireman’s devotion to fitness had already won him a scholarship to Berkeley University of California. He was studying there in 2006 when he suffered breathlessness.

 

An X-ray revealed he had a grossly enlarged heart, known as a dilated cardiomyopathy. His heartbeat was stopping and starting again, and doctors feared he was at risk of a fatal heart attack.

 

When surgeons gave him a defibrillator in March 2006, Joe’s heart stopped altogether. They fought for five minutes before it started again.

 

A month later Joe had a transplant. Despite doctors’ advice to take it easy, a year after the operation he ran his first marathon. He also made an 18,000ft parachute jump and his other hobbies include surfing, snowboarding and mountain biking.

 

Now back in Yorkshire, the graphic designer says his proudest moment was playing his first game for Doncaster Phoenix RFU in 2010.

 

“I loved being back on the field. I’m young and I have to do the things I love or I’d be wasting this opportunity,” he said.