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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happily Signing Off... Because Transplants Work!!

Well hello again! It's been a long while!

Firstly, a big thank you to those that have watched my blog through my journey. You have all been wonderful supporters and mediums to sharing the message about organ donation.

A brief summary of the past while...

I'm back to work full time! That's right. I'm contributing to society again and happily paying taxes. No excuses. It feels really great to be a part of something and to be relied upon. I started back at the 6 month mark, which may have been too early. I ran into some first-year challenges that forced me to take time off again. Once I got through that first year everything was much smoother. I have one more year to go and I hope to apply for my Professional Engineers of Ontario license. A big milestone in my career!

I went on a cruise with my family! That's right. My first trip outside of Ontario since before my journey began. It was a little stressful being prepared with all the medications and letters and insurance, but we made it. And wow, was it ever a great trip! My Mom and Dad took us on the Carnival Pride cruise ship for their wedding anniversary celebration. It was Mom, Dad, my big bro, Derek, his awesome wife, Vicky, Shaun and myself. It was some wonderful family time with tons of fun had by all! Here we are at Cocoa Beach in Port Canaveral, Florida.

I participated in the Canadian Transplant Games hosted in Calgary by the Canadian Transplant Association (CTA)! For those of you not aware, every other year CTA hosts Transplant Games in Canada that are made for transplant recipients to compete in Olympic-style events. This is a way for recipients to show the country that transplants work. This was my first Games and I brought home three gold medals and a puck for a win in the East versus West floor hockey game! I participated in 20km cycle race, 3km race walk and bowling. I had the great pleasure of meeting individuals from across this wonderful country that have been touched by transplants in their own way. The love and zest for life amongst these people is contagious! I also had the great pleasure of attending with my strong team of supporters. Mom, Dad, Shaun and Derek cheered me and my heart on for the win! I plan to attend the next Canadian Games in 2014. Can't wait! For more information on CTA, please visit their website at www.organ-donation-works.org. Here's a great pic of my supporting team and below, the winning East floor hockey team.

The Life Donation Awareness Association is a very active and successful awareness group. I am so proud to say that the individuals that have joined together to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation in our community have contributed to the increase in registration by about 5% over the past couple years! With the addition of beadonor.ca and media pushes from Trillium Gift of Life Network, we have grabbed on to the attention and been a part of many events throughout the community. My measure of success comes when I visit a random place with my organ donation paraphernalia and someone says, out of nowhere, "I just registered!" Or, "I heard a speaker about organ donation just a little while ago!" What a great moment. We are making an impact.  There are now five chapters of LDAA! Our Midwest group, Niagara (Mom's group - Go Mom!), Oxford County, Hamilton/Burlington and Wilmot Area. Unbelievable! Such a tribute to our success. Here we are at the Cambridge Canada Day Parade 2012.

Let me tell you. It's really hard to summarize the last while because it has been such a wonderful life to live. I don't want to jinx anything, but I really have my life back. I'm on track with where I left off with so much more in my life. At times I feel resentment for what has happened to me but these days, those moments are few and far between. This transplant has given me a FULL life back. I went in with a broken heart (literally) and came with not only a beautiful donor heart, but stronger relationships with my family and friends, new friends and new experiences. There is so much life to be lived!!!

Since this will be my last post I want to pass on some of the lessons I have learned through my journey.

  • Never underestimate your own strength. Life is made up of 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.  

  •  Enjoy every moment. Do the things that you love and never waste your time.

  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up. And lift them up too. Happiness, smiles and positive energy are contagious.

  • Be thankful for the love that surrounds you. It is your family and friends that get you through those really hard times. Let them support you and support them back. This is their journey too.
  • Transplants work! Not only do they give life back, they give a FULL life back.Share the message!

  • Specifically to donors and donor families, thank you for giving selflessly. You are all heroes.

My deepest appreciation to every one of you that has contributed in any way to the success of my journey. Even those of you that simply said a prayer when things were scary or sent a little message that made me smile. Those of you that have been there for me in a bigger way, you know how much I appreciate you.

Shannon - You started my blog and helped me reach out to all these people! We have connected through this journey and became greater friends. Thank you for understanding my challenges.

Mom and Dad - This is your journey too. You have overcome many challenges of your own. Our journey has been difficult but our relationship has strengthened because of it. Even though I'm not laying in a hospital bed or attached to wires and machines, I still need you. Not in same way, but just as much.

Shaun - You are my true hero. My strength. My reason to look forward. You have always been there right beside me and knew what I needed before I knew I needed it. You have strength and patience that has been exactly what I have needed and continue to need. I cannot summarize all you have done for me in one paragraph but I can say thank you. I am deeply looking forward to growing old with you.

Love to all of you from the bottom of my second heart.