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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome Lachlan!

I would like to send a very warm welcome to a new member of our family!


My sister-in-law, you all know Shannon, gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, full term baby boy on September 5th, 2011. At 7 lbs and 11 ounces and 19 inches long. Yippee!! This brings big excitement to me in two ways.

The first and most exciting is because Shannon has had many pregnancy challenges in the past. To finally have a healthy full term baby is a dream come true for our family. Big brother Ashton was born at only 24 weeks. He has his challenges but he is the happiest kid ever! Shannon, Jeff and Ashton deserve all the happiness in the world and I can't wait to watch their family grow.

Second, let's do some math people. Lachlan was born at 38 weeks and 6 days... Get your calender out. That's brings us back to.... Hmm... what's the day??.... December 21st, 2010...wait a minute... that rings a bell....WHAT!! That's right!! That's the day I got my heart!!! Seriously people. When I got the call at 3am, we packed our stuff, called my parents and got on the road. As I was on the road I called a few other people on the way... Gee, sorry to wake you Shannon and Jeff!! HAHAHA!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back to Work

Well, now that I've passed 6 months, I'm ready to return to work! Yippee!

Some of you may not know what I do. Well I'm a Civil Engineer. No, I do not drive trains. Ha!

I went to the University of Waterloo for 5 years in the co-op engineering program. I graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering. Yes, I'm a geek. And proud! I decided to specialize in transportation. After graduation, I got a job right away for McCormick Rankin Corporation. What a great place to work! The people are wonderful and I enjoy what I do. I worked for just barely over 1 year before I was diagnosed with heart disease. You wouldn't believe the support I received from from everyone.

So you are probably wondering, what the heck to you do? Well, I design roads and highways. To put it in simple terms. We will design and administer the reconstruction of old roads/highways as well as the design and administration of new roads/highways. It may sound a little boring to you, but it is quite involved. There is a lot of project management and hands-on design. When I first started I spent most of my time in AutoCAD doing Civil 3D design. Since returning I have spent much of my time assisting in project management. It's great getting a taste of everything.

Here's a pic of MRC's big project in the Region of Waterloo. It is an extension of Fairway Road in Kitchener over the Grand River to Kossuth Road in Cambridge. There is a long-span girder bridge and two roundabouts. I don't do bridges though, just road design. Check out the concept pics here.

I am working towards my PEO license, Professional Engineers of Ontario. With this license I will be able to stamp drawings and take legal responsibility of my designs. To achieve this license I need four years of experience. It's a little frustrating because I lost three years.... but I'm back on track. I have one year of undergrad experience and one year before I went on disability. So I have two years left. I will get there!

I went back to work on June 20, 2011 on a gradual basis. I started with about 6-8 hours per week and then increased about 2 hours per week every two weeks. It's pretty slow but I have been through quite a lot and adjusting to the schedule has been a little challenging. When I hit about 20 hours or so, I got a little pooped out and it caught up with me. I just slowed it down a little and worked through it. I am just so happy to have structure and purpose in my life again! I worked so hard to earn my degree and get where I am, it's nice to put it all to use again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Summer Vacation

We finally got to have a summer vacation this year!!! I got to swim and run and canoe and fish... and not worry about getting wet! Or being far from the docs. Yippee!

My family cottage is on the Grand River near the mouth of Lake Erie in Dunnville. The family has been there for years. My Dad's grandfather, Gramps as we called him, built the cottage with his bare hands. Well, it has certainly grown since. It now has 5 bedrooms, a flushing toilet and flowing water. But it's not about the building to be honest... It's a place that we can go to be with family. It would be very different without the cottage. I love seeing my family throughout the summer and having a wonderful place to enjoy each other.
Mom and Dad got a new family boat this year! It's awesome! I never missed an opportunity to go tubing with my niece, Mya and my nephew, Owen. I never missed an opportunity to swim either! Such a great summer! Thanks Mom and Dad!

The new boat! And Owen, Mya and Uncle Shaun.

My hubby skiing!

Auntie A and Mya tubing!

Uncle Shaun loading Owen into the tube!

We are so lucky, we have a second family cottage! Whoop! This one is much farther away and tougher to get to. But oh so relaxing. The Clegg's have a cottage up in Golden Valley, south west of North Bay. It takes about 5 hours to get there from our house. The cottage is boat access only and no cell reception. So you can see why I didn't want to go up there while I was sick and waiting for a heart. But we finally got there! Yippee!

Shaun fishing off the rock while Sadie watches in eager anticipation.

Yay! I caught one!

I can't believe you left without me....

Chili is not a big fan of swimming... but with his thick coat he was relieved from the heat!

Ah...much better...

Happy 6 Month Heart-versary!

On June 21st, 2011 I was proud to say I hit the 6 month milestone. (sigh of relief)

Six months is a critical point to pass from a health perspective after a heart transplant. I felt that I could actually say I was feeling good. It was a rough road but I had passed the worst.

On the other hand, this was an emotional day for me. To be honest, I forgot it was the day 6 months after transplant until something brought my attention back. My heart had one somewhat unusual strong beat. After that, I thought for a moment and realized. Six months ago I was given the gift of a new heart.

I didn't feel like having a big party or eating a big cake. I didn't feel like inviting all of my loved ones over. I felt like this was a time between me and my donor. I've been thinking, instead of referring to him/her as "donor" I would like there to be a name. How about Sam? It can be male or female. I've always liked that name. So today was a day between Sam and me.

There are two things to say to Sam right now, I'm sorry and thank you.

From the bottom of our heart.

LDAA June Update

The Life Donation Awareness Association had a very successful month in June! I thought I would share some of the highlights.

St. Mary's Bike and Hike for Heart - June 5, 2011
LDAA was given the opportunity to host an awareness/information booth at the St. Mary's Bike and Hike for Heart event at Waterloo Park. It was a beautiful day! Of course, I had to participate in the bike again with Shaun, Mom and Dad. It has become a special tradition. I left the booth to my wonderful transplant friends and they had great success! They were able to provide information to many people throughout the day.

I Skydive So Others Can Stay Alive - June 18, 2011
Well I had mentioned the fundraiser my Mom initiated before in an April posting. It was amazing!!! The 5 divers and family/friends raised about $6500 for Toronto General Hospital! AND LDAA earned about $500 by hosting the barbecue and a raffle draw! WOW!!! Thank you to everyone that made a donation and participated in the fabulous day.

Matt (Rick's son, Rick is waiting for lungs), Karra (Dana's step daughter), Dana (Heart+double lung recipient), Carol (Momma) and Paula (Rick's wife)

Practicing the safe landing!

Carol and Skymaster Chris

Cambridge Canada Day Parade - July 1, 2011
So apparently Cambridge hosts the largest Canada Day parade in Canada. Hmm. Who knew. Anyway, some good friends and members of LDAA planned/designed/created a fabulous float! It was a beautiful day! I'm sure our cause touched many people that day.

Our Awesome Float!

Ready to march!

Shannon, Ashton (Andrea's nephew) and Missy

Andrea and Madeline

It's hard to believe how much LDAA has done in the little time it has been established. I'm so proud of all of the members! Great job everyone!

I'm back!

Alright. So let me explain a little something to you.

First of all, my apologies for so quietly deciding not to blog for such a long time. It's been, what, 5 months? Wow. When I started blogging my expectations were that I would get my heart, share my story about recovery and then stop blogging and return to my normal life, which I didn't expect to be interesting to all of you. Well, I'm sure that part of my life is not all that interesting but I've had a revelation. Ready?

My life is not normal and it will never be normal.

Now that's a revelation. Maybe you are thinking, I could have told you that Andrea. Maybe you should have because I wasn't thinking that way. Now let me be clear, I'm not dead, so let's not under appreciate the circumstance. However, my life has really changed. Not just in a physical sense, in an emotional sense. My all-wise transplant nurse gave me that revelation above and also told me that I may need to mourn the loss of the person I was before transplant. I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that I'm back to share what life is like after a heart transplant. There are some great moments and there are some tough moments. I hope to impress you with what I can accomplish and remind you that transplants really do work.

Before I start writing to share all my updates of late, I would like to thank those in my life that have helped me along the way.

My husband. You have never left my side. You have always understood my challenges and known exactly what I need. I don't know how you had so much patients during my high-prednisone days, but you always came home to me and made me feel loved. I hope to give you back the life we have worked so hard for without the constant worry of tomorrow. It will come. I'm so proud of who you are and how you have embraced life. I love you always.

My Mom and Dad. I know, the better I get, the more you feel that I don't need you. But I will always need you. More than you know. I may not always need you to sit at the hospital with me or to get me my slippers but I will always need your love and support. Thank you for giving me that unconditionally.

Mom and Dad C. I'm so lucky to have such great outlaws. Thank you for helping us through our tough times and most of all, thank you for being there for Shaun when he was always busy being strong for me. I truly appreciate your investment in our cause and the support you give. xoxoxo

Derek and Vicky. I'm so glad you are right around the corner. I know you are a very busy family but I really appreciate the time you take for me. Being around when I need some uplifting and help around the house. We had a great summer at the cottage! I loved seeing so often.

Shannon and Jeff. We have grown closer through this challenge. I've said it before. It's unfortunate we have to go through these things, but I'm thankful for the opportunity it's given me to establish our great relationship. Learning from your strength and understanding has helped so much along the way. I'm so excited for the new experiences to come!

All my supportive friends and family. Just because I can't name you all individually, doesn't mean you have not played an important role in my life. You know who you are. Thanks for being there for me and just showing your support in whatever way you do. I feel so much love.

Enough of the gooey stuff.