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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dress Rehearsal

So I was sleeping soundly after a big night at my parent's house in Niagara Falls. It was only the second night in 6 months that we were away from home. I was dreaming that I was with nurses I knew from volunteering earlier this week and they were getting a call with a ring I didn't recognize. I woke myself up and started thinking what it could be. Then it hit me.

I called the number left on my pager and it was for another pager. Seriously. They called back right away, but it felt like the longest 30 seconds ever. The lady was very friendly and calm and told me that they think they have a heart for me. She gave me instructions of where to go and what to expect. She told me to take my morning pills with a glass of water because sometimes "things happen" and it might not be right for me.

Shaun packed up and my parents made plans for the dogs. I remembered to brush my teeth but forgot to pee... Everything got jumbled up. When we got on the road I started making more phone calls. This was 6:30am by now and I was waking everyone up. I'm sure they didn't mind.

We had a few tears and felt the reality of the situation.

We got to the hospital and went to emergency because admitting wasn't open yet. They sent us right up to the CCU. I spent about a week in this unit before I had my LVAD implanted. This was by far the worst week of my life. The nurses and staff here were happy to see me and I recognized many of them. It was nice to see familiar faces. They were all so good to me.

Not long after we got there the surgeon came in to see us. It was Dr. Cuisimano who had done my LVAD surgery. I have met all three surgeons and feel in more than confident in them, but it was nice to see Dr. Cuisimano since he did my other surgery. He told me that they might remove Ivan (my ICD), since patients typically don't need them after having a transplant and the wait list to get it removed otherwise is about 2 years long. Even though Ivan and I had been through a lot together, we were both okay to retire our relationship. Shaun and I were also briefly informed of the risks involved in the surgery, which we were partly aware of already. They mentioned that it wouldn't be unlikely for the surgery to run 6 or 8 hours long. I don't mind.... but that's a long time for the family. It's difficult to wait.

Dr. Cuisimano told us that he was going himself to see the donor heart because it was in town. He said we would know in a couple hours if it was good enough for me. He said, as we knew, it's hard to tell that the heart is in good condition until a surgeon has it in his hands to evaluate. You would think this would be a long couple hours, and we did keep checking the clock but there was a lot going on, for me anyway. They took about 15 vials of blood and did swabs. I had to get a "swan" put in. It has many different names, which I believe could be a right-heart cath or a pick line. Basically, they insert a catheter in my neck vein that goes all the way into my heart. I had this before but I was feeling much worse. I didn't remember it being so uncomfortable. With a cover over my whole body, they froze a part of my neck, made an incision, inserted the catheter and put a stitch to hold it in. I tried to suck it up and let them do their thing.

Time passed and we had some nice family time. My parents and Shaun's parents were there. I don't know what I would do without my support network. Thanks to all of you. It was so nice to have you there. We all didn't know what to prepare for.

It was about 11:30am when Dr. Yao, one of the surgeons came in to tell us that the heart was not good enough. They want the best heart to give me the best chance. They found some sign of coronary artery disease, or something like that, in the donor heart. I could tell that this is news the doctors do not want to share, but it happens. While it was disappointing, I didn't feel too bummed because I know that it's in my best interest.

Just a dress rehearsal.

I would like to take a moment for the donor and the donor family.

Because this kind, generous and caring person checked the box, people could live. Even though the heart wasn't able to pass on, I'm sure other people were saved. I want to send up a prayer and big thank you to that person. Your legacy will live on.

Thanks to Shannon, who did a great job keeping everyone updated. It's hard to sit and wait, but I'm sure two pots of coffee helped.... LOL


  1. Andrea, I don't know you, but you are one AMAZING person!!!! Keep up the good spirits and I will keep praying for you!!!

  2. Andrea you write so beautifully. That's exactly how it was, but you forgot to mention the positive attitude of the patient through all of this! She is amazing, and always has been, that's why each step leads to success. We'll get there soon, My Joy!! The perfect heart will be yours, and ours, to share!

  3. Hi Andrea,

    Wow!! You are amazing!! I love the way you write. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It seems to me that you are here to teach us all something so keep writing!!!

    Take good care :))

    Trish Dwyer