I was shocked! As a young 30-year-old runner, someone who’d been physically active and healthy all my life, I was stunned in 1999 when I felt like I was having a heart attack. In follow-up with a cardiologist, I learned that I needed a mitral valve replacement. No problem – it’s a routine surgery and I was in good health. Unfortunately, many things went wrong following the surgery and I was in intensive care for quite a long time. In fact, my surgeon said I was the second sickest patient he’d ever had who actually survived.
It was a slow recovery process and I was left with some residual effects from this experience. But I got stronger and seemed on my way back toward health. Fast forward to 2013, things changed again as my heart started to deteriorate. The result? I was evaluated and placed on a heart transplant waiting list where I stay to this day.
While I’ve moved up on the list (which means my heart and health status has gotten worse), I’m still waiting in limbo. The uncertainty of what the future holds is draining and stressful. But I keep a positive attitude and faith that I’ll manage whatever happens.
Keeping a sense of hope and acceptance has been important to me. I’ve received support from many directions. My family and friends, of course, have been there through thick and thin. Through my multiple hospitalizations I’ve always been comforted to wake and find my mom or one of my brothers sitting in a chair next to me. I’ve been supported when my brother Gary attends doctor’s appointments, procedures and even the heart transplant support group meetings with me. This support group has been a Godsend as there are times I’m shocked that I need a heart transplant. Then I go to the group and hear others who’ve had a transplant – their experiences and where they are now. They know what this is like, and their presence makes it easier for me to share what I’m feeling and going through.
Through this support and my faith in God, I’ve learned to have patience and live life more slowly. I’m brought back to the values instilled in me by my parents – to be grateful, kind and helpful. And I think often about my dad’s positive attitude mantra to “This is a good day.” He really lived his life this way and we were reminded of this frequently by the many “This is a good day” signs he posted around our house. All of this helps me keep hope and faith through the good times and the hard.