I was born in Ottawa, Canada with a congenital heart defect. I had 3 heart surgeries as a child, the first one being the day after I was born. Doctors had warned my parents that these surgeries were palliative: problems would eventually start to arise because my heart would start to fail. Although I couldn’t participate in gym class or sports and I had regular cardiac appointments, I was a happy and energetic kid.
In my 20s, the expected cardiac symptoms slowly started: I had a mini-stroke and heart arrhythmias. I started taking more and more medications and with time they were less and less effective. At the age of 32, the cardiologists decided it was time to revise the surgery I had as a child. This was a massive surgery that included many procedures to fix my complicated heart. I was so hopeful, thinking that I would feel like superwoman afterward…but things didn’t turn out that way.
Although I felt better for a bit, my heart failure did eventually continue to progress to an advanced stage. I had really bad ascites (fluid retention in my abdomen – everyone thought I was pregnant), I had bad arrhythmia that wasn’t even controlled by my pacemaker, and worst of all, I was so fatigued that it had become difficult to walk for longer than 10 meters. My husband and I travel A LOT and the last couple of trips before my transplant consisted of Matt carrying me everywhere because I just couldn’t walk.
In early 2015, my cardiologist told me that my heart was in such bad shape that I didn’t have many years left. My only option was to be evaluated for a heart transplant. Because I was so sick and needed to be on IV to help my heart pump, I had to be hospitalized during the wait. After months of hospitalization, the wait was over and I had my heart transplant on September 17, 2015. I remember feeling such a strong mix of emotions that night: a feeling of hope and excitement for the future and a feeling of sadness and guilt because there was a family somewhere who had lost someone and it was this loss that gave me a second chance. I think about my donor every day.