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

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bike for Heart

This day was a very special day for me.

Today is the day for the Manulife Bike and Hike for Heart to raise money for St. Mary's Regional Cardiac Care Centre. This is the hospital that I was taken to the day of our wedding and also the hospital that determined my severe heart failure last summer and got me to Toronto General Hospital for the life-saving LVAD surgery.

I would like to take a moment to share my connection with this hospital. My first experience was the day of our wedding. This was certainly one of the worst types of situations anyone wants to be taken to a hospital. We were treated with an immense amount of respect and kindness. The small celebration that was created in efforts to salvage what we had left of our wedding made an impact we will never forget. The flowers were beautiful and allowed me to "toss my bouquet"; the non-alcoholic champagne let us toast our happiness; the cake was delicious and very personal. And the staff especially, what can I say about the staff, my words cannot express.... Thank you.

Many people feel pity and sadness for what happened to us at our wedding. We say that it was that event that saved my life. If I was not connected with St. Mary's I would not be here today. The attending physician that treated me after our wedding chose to set me up with heart failure education classes put on by the Heart Function Clinic at the hospital. These classes focus on living with heart disease including diet, medications, signs and symptoms to call your doctor, and other life-style considerations. The summer after our wedding was very challenging for me. I was having severe abdominal pain that prevented me from ANY physical activity, even grocery shopping. I had constant nausea and a constant feeling of fullness. I had several hospital visit across the province but the ER doctors AND my own cardiologist in Cambridge did not recognize these symptoms. It was not until I attended an education class at St. Mary's hospital that the nurse teaching the class understood my situation. Within minutes of speaking with her I was seeing a cardiologist and taken upstairs to be admitted. I was told I was in SEVERE heart failure and I needed treatment in a hospital setting right away. It was then my most challenging time began.

I stayed in St. Mary's for two weeks. The nurses, doctors and staff were all very kind and respectful. The little things that were done for me that were not part of the job description were the things that meant the most. Bringing in nail polish, giving extra dinner plates to my family, sharing thanksgiving dinner with my hubby, "freshening" the room, getting me a reading light, taking the time to explain my medications and complications, calling in at 3am to check on me, and many other kind acts. These are things that made my experience a little more personal. The staff was also able to admit when my condition was beyond their ability and connect me to Toronto General Hospital where I was approved for transplant and the LVAD. I am proud to be a patient at St. Mary's.

Anyway, the Bike and Hike raised funds for the Cardiac Centre in St. Mary's and it's the least I can do to show my appreciation. I was happy to attend with my hubby, Shaun, my parents and my sister-in-law (and co-editor of this blog) Shannon and her husband Jeff. Some of my strongest supporters. As a family, we raised over $2600! Thanks to all of our sponsors.

We all decided to do the 20km bike.


I rode the entire 20km with everyone else. It was a goal I really wanted to attain and I'm so proud to say that I did it. Not without the encouragement of my family and all of the volunteers along the way. The event was very well organized and we were treated wonderfully. I will update here when I confirm actually numbers of what was raised.

Here are some pics of us.

Jeff, Shaun, Shannon, Me, Carol (Mom) and Dave (Dad)

Pointing to my heart.

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