My name is Olivia Richardson and I am a two-time stroke survivor, former LVAD patient, and heart-transplant recipient. I was first diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and had my first stroke at the age of 25. This was a shock to me because I had always been an athlete and been healthy all my life. After my first stroke I had paralysis on my left side and I could no longer speak. The doctors gave me tissue plasminogen activator to help break up the clot that had formed. Less than 5 minutes later the feeling on my left side returned. The doctors discovered the reason for my stroke was my heart. They told me, essentially, I had a weak heart, and that my ejection fraction was only 10-15%. (That means that my left ventricle was only functioning at 10-15%). It was then where my journey began. In 2015, I underwent surgery to receive a defibrillator. This was placed as a safety precaution in case I went into sudden cardiac arrest due to my weak heart. Things were going well until 2018 where the next year of my life changed drastically. A few days after my 30th birthday I suffered my second stroke.
I was experiencing stomach pains which led me to seek medical attention at an urgent care. The staff of the urgent care found me passed out in the bathroom and I was rushed to the nearest hospital as it was discovered I was having a stroke. The doctors performed surgery to remove a clot. This stroke affected the right side of my body and I had to undergo physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Before I was able to complete my therapy, which was helping me to walk again, eat again, drink again, my parents had to rush me back to the hospital. My heart was in advanced heart failure.
The doctors decided to give me the LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help me live while I waited for a heart. I needed a heart transplant.
On February 1, 2020 I received the call for a new heart. I was in total shock and disbelief because I had only been on the list for a month and a half. So, with my hands shaking and still in shock, I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center to get a new heart! The road has been nothing short of amazing AND certainly very difficult but, here I am today ready to take over the world!
I am a two-time stroke and heart-transplant survivor and warrior! This stroke month I encourage you to learn the signs of a stroke and then share it with at least one person that you love, it could save a life, I know it saved mine, twice!
The mission of the American Heart Association is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. I combine my passion of storytelling and relationship building to further the mission.