My name is Anne-Marie and I just turned 40. Without a heart transplant, I would not have made it this far. I was born with a complex congenital heart defect. I had open-heart surgeries as a child but my doctors had warned my parents that these surgeries would not cure my problems. My heart would eventually start to fail with time.
Although I had some very healthy years, I also had a lot of medications, surgeries, and hospital stays It’s in early 2015 that my heart failure progressed to an advanced stage. I had really bad fluid retention, my heart arrhythmias could not be controlled, and I was so fatigued that it had become difficult to walk for longer than 10 meters. My husband had to carry me everywhere. This is when my cardiologist told me that my heart was in such bad shape that I didn’t have many years left. My only option was to be evaluated for a heart transplant. I needed to be hospitalized during the wait because my heart needed support to work as well as it could until the transplant. After months of hospitalization, I had my heart transplant on September 17, 2015. I remember feeling such a strong mix of emotions that night: a feeling of hope and excitement for the future and a feeling of sadness and guilt because there was a family somewhere who had lost someone and it was this loss that gave me a second chance. I think about my donor every day.
There were some complications after my heart transplant. I had to stay on a heart and lung machine for 4 days after the surgery. Once the surgeons could safely remove me from the machine and closed me back up, I suffered a hemorrhage in my head. Because the blood was pushing against my brain, the surgeons had to perform an emergency craniectomy (removing the right half of my cranium to remove the blood and release the pressure against my brain). That half of my cranium was placed back on my head 3 months later.
Needless to say, my real recovery only started once my head was put back together. Completing the cardiac rehabilitation program and going to the gym was so freeing. It’s so crazy to be able to run, sprint up the stairs, or travel with my husband and not need him to carry me. I have energy and I feel like myself again. When you are sick for so long, it’s difficult to be yourself.
Since my transplant, I can spend time with the people I love without secretly wishing I was lying in my bed; I am back at work, as a teacher; my husband and I have been travelling and I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the World Transplant Games.
It has been over 3 years since my transplant and I am forever grateful to my organ donor for giving me more time with the people I love, my medical care team, for saving my life time and time again, and my family and friends for always making me feel like I don’t need to worry about a thing because they are right there with me through it all..
Anne-Marie – Heart Recipient