He used to face death daily. Now he's walking on air

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He used to face death daily. Now he's walking on air

After a heart and double lung transplant, Matthew Legemaate knows something about facing - and beating - the odds

Journalist

Less than four months after receiving a heart and double lung transplant, Matthew Legemaate has finally rung the Hillcrest High School bell.
A special matric assembly was held last week for the 20-year-old to ring the bell to signal the end of his schooling career.
Legemaate, the seventh South African to receive a heart and double lung transplant, had been looking forward to ringing the bell in his matric year but his surgery was performed last October, shortly before the tradition was observed.
He was discharged from hospital last month.
Legemaate is now gearing towards completing his matric in June, and getting a driver’s licence. He is even determined to compete in the 35km Amashova cycle race.
“My desire is to get well and be the best Matthew I can be to honour the special gift I have been given,” he said.
Legemaate has already been asked to share his story at a few schools.
“My story is one about being positive despite the odds,” he said.
Legemaate was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and pulmonary atresia at birth.For the first time in 20 years his mother Janet no longer feels the need to check if her son is breathing as he sleeps at night.
“When Matthew first came home from the hospital I was understandably a little anxious.  I even spent a couple of nights sleeping in his room. But we soon realised that all was well.”
“Knowing just how close we came to losing Matthew, seeing him now pick up his camera, walk outside and sit and enjoy the scenery, is incredible,” she said.
For now Legemaate has to stay away from busy closed public spaces.“Matthew is being given a little more freedom, as long as he is careful and keeps away from anyone who may be ill or places where there is no free-flowing air.
“It is only when you are told to stay out of cinemas and planes for a year and away from malls when they are busy for the first six months, that you realise with a compromised immunity you are really at risk.”
Matthew is having “loads of fun with all the breathing exercises he has to do to train himself to breathe properly again.”
“He is happy and incredibly happy that he no longer needs supplementary oxygen.
“He has been going from strength to strength.  Recovery does take a while and any transplant recipient will tell you that the medication takes some getting used to,” his mother said.

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