A powerful journey from living with an artificial heart to a heart transplant....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

About Andrea

Well I have experienced quite a journey to stay true to my heart. It's been a long road but I feel I have found the right direction and along with it, where I can make a mark on this world.

It all began in May of 2008 when I was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. At first I didn't understand the severity of this disease and expected that I would take meds, get better and continue on the path we had planned. Through an experience of heart failure and the implantation of an ICD, Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, we began to understand that things will need to change.

I had been with Shaun for about 4 years prior to diagnosis. We bought a house together, adopted some pets, and discussed our future. Three weeks after I was diagnosed with heart disease, he proposed to me. The future in general became unclear, but we knew one thing for sure, however long we had, we wanted to spend that time together. He is my rock, my knight in shining armour. He has made this disease easier to cope with and given me something to fight for. At the time, I didn't understand what that really meant and how true it would become.

So I was told that I would just have to live with 20% left-sided heart function. I was not severe enough to be added to the transplant list, although I was being followed be an out-patient clinic. I had my ICD, affectionately named Ivan, and that was the most important thing to prevent against sudden death, a blunt comfort.

When 2009 began I planned my wedding. I planned it all. It was so much fun. I wasn't in a condition to work, as of yet, so I made this my job. I made my flowers, the cake, the favours, the invitations, the thank-you cards, and organized everything. We married in May of 2009 and the day was absolutely beautiful. I married the man of my dreams. Committed my life to him in front of all my dearest family and friends. As the night passed on, we had dinner and began our speeches. Shaun and I decided to do our speech first so we could relax for the others. Well Ivan was not happy with the speech and decided to make his presence known. Two minutes into the speech he fired three times. My new husband caught me before I fell to the floor. I was taken to St. Mary's Hopsital in Kitchener, not knowing that this hospital would later save my life.

The nurses and staff planned a little party for us and our family in the hospital that night. We were able to cut the cake, throw the bouquet and have a toast. They treated me wonderfully and made the difficult experience a little better.

The summer of 2009 brought some strange symptoms. Through about 3 months of abdominal pain and difficulty eating it was determined that I was in SEVERE heart failure. It was a nurse at St. Mary's that got me to see a doctor. My existing cardiologist continuously told me it was a gastrointestinal issue, as did ER doctors and surgeons. None-the-less, I got to the right people. They treated me and determined my condition was more severe than their facility could handle and they sent me to Toronto General Hospital to be evaluated for transplant.

I was then approved on the transplant list and experienced the fight of my life. Hooked up to about 15 IV's did nothing to improve my condition. I waited three days for a heart to become available but I was not able to wait another day. The doctors implanted the LVAD, a Left Ventricular Assist Device to pump blood through my body since my heart was not able to do it alone. This was life saving surgery and I feel it is my second chance at life. It's purpose is a "bridge to transplant". I am still waiting for a heart transplant.

I would like to make a change in this world. I will share my experiences to promote organ and tissue donation and blood donation. Everyone wants to know what they can do to help, make a change, inform yourself and become an organ and tissue donor.

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