These last five years I have been on a journey in which it seems that God has been preparing me for. It seems that he has been getting me ready for something greater that I cannot explain. This journey, although I didn’t know it at the time, would change my life forever.
Never has my faith been tested as it was in 2013. I was experiencing dizziness, fluid retention, fatigue, had trouble breathing and sleeping, and of course was extremely concerned. I would go to the doctor and none of the symptoms would even show up. They must have thought I was crazy!
Eventually I was diagnosed with heart failure. When I heard those words, I immediately thought, “how much time do I have”? My doctor further explained that I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is a leaking mitral valve which, thank God, my doctor said could be repaired. I had my surgery to repair the mitral valve on October 4, 2013 and everything went well. I went to cardiac rehab and over time was able to go back to work, part time. Soon I was able to go full time and even started back with my spin class!
After about 14 months of feeling great, trouble started to creep up on me again. I was starting to experience the same symptoms – dizziness, fluid retention, fatigue, and anxiety. Again, I let my cardiologist know how I was feeling but he just could not find anything wrong. I continued to live with the symptoms.
In June 2015 I was at my 6-month routine exam. After my doctor finished examining me, I asked him why my ankles were swollen. His answer was that I had fat ankles. Well, I never had FAT ankles! All he could think to do was prescribe medication and urged me to get a pacemaker.
I took the medication for a month with no changes. The doctor had me go back to the doctor who did my mitral valve repair, who informed me that I didn’t need the medication and he told me to stop taking it. Still feeling awful, I kept going to the cardiologist and to my primary care physician with no definitive answers.
A month later, the fatigue and anxiety were unbearable. I called the cardiologist in tears because I was noticing the fluid was coming up to my thighs. Again, I was told to see my primary care physician. The doctor prescribed water pills and the fluid would go down temporarily and then I would swell back up.
I was getting worse and worse. By December 2015, I could barely catch my breath, wasn’t sleeping, was full of fluid, would be exhausted and stressed out. I called the cardiologist who scheduled an echocardiogram. I was told the results showed my heart was functioning at 28% I had no idea on was on my next journey.
By the end of December, I ended up in the emergency room. As I was being examined in the ER, they knew it was my heart, but no one could tell me exactly what was going on with it or how to treat me. I eventually needed to go to a hospital that specializes in heart issues and was on my way not knowing what was in store for me.
Once I arrived, the doctors new immediately what was happening. I was told that I would need a HEART TRANSPLANT. All I could think was “Oh my God! How am I going to break this news to my family?” I had no idea what this would mean for me or if I would even survive. But there was hope. I was told about this device that I had never heard of, a left ventricle assistive device, also known as an L-VAD. The
doctors told me that this was the bridge to a heart transplant and I could live up to 5 years with the device, if necessary.
I had become comfortable with the L-VAD. My husband and our friends helped me to check off some things on my bucket list like traveling. It was time to stop working as it would be too tiring, so I made the decision to retire from the job that I loved, being a Social Worker, and enjoy every minute I was given. Going through something like this makes you think about what’s important. I have stopped worrying about the little things because I know that God has my life in his hands.
It was Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, and my birthday. My husband took me to dinner we had a wonderful time. My sons wanted to give me a party and were planning a cookout for April 11th. It was such a nice day with family, good food and by the end of the day I was tired. But a good kind of tired. We cleaned up, everyone left, and my grandson and I were watching TV when my cell phone rang. I saw it was the hospital calling and I thought, “how nice, they are calling to wish me a happy birthday!” I couldn’t believe it. The person on the line told me that I needed to get to the hospital because they had “MY’ heart. I thought for a minute that I was dreaming.
I received my new heart and every day I am getting stronger and stronger. It has been a long time since I’ve felt this good. But even after going through everything, the hardest thing for me was to try and write a thank you letter to the donor family. I wanted to tell them how grateful I am that they made the choice to donate after such a loss, but I was so worried my words possibly bring up some things that the family may not want to remember. Being a mother I myself would have a difficult time letting go of my child, it just brought me to tears each time I attempted to write. One day I was talking to a gentleman who donated his son’s organs, and he said he was hoping to hear from the family of the person who received his don’s heart. He gave me the faith and confidence I needed. I went home that night, wrote my letter, and sent it. I cannot wait to one day meet my donor family.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to tell my story; It tells of my Faith and Belief that God will bring me out of anything and maybe will give someone going through struggles the same. I am grateful that I have made it through this incredible journey and to a new life. A new life with a new heart.