Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kevin's Story

Being young — 27 — and healthy I did not have a family doctor, so for any medical problems I'd go to a medicentre.

In mid-November 1992 I had flu-like symptoms, so off I went to see a doctor. He gave me some medication to clear up strep throat. I had to go back several times because I was not getting any better. After some time of not improving I was sent for a chest X-ray and asked to come back with the pictures. The doctor looked at the X-rays and immediately sent me to the Grey Nuns Hospital emergency room.

I was examined by the cardiologist on call I and immediately put in the intensive care for the night. In the morning, I was transferred to the fourth floor and put on several medicines, a low salt and fluid restriction. They suspected the strep throat viral infection moved to the heart causing it to become enlarged.

The cardiologist said I had cardiomyopathy — a severe form of congestive heart failure.
I was sent to the University of Alberta Hospital for more tests and to be assessed for a heart transplant. After many tests and many new medications I was put on the transplant list.
I had not been able to work for a long time and all I could do is sit around, watch television and read. It was hard even to walk up a few stairs. But while on full rest at home I improved quite a bit. My heart had shrunk in size, but many tasks were still difficult.

In early June 1994 I was retaining water in the lungs and my heart had enlarged again — the condition was serious and the transplant team moved me up the list.
At 10:35 p.m. on Aug. 5, 1994, I was called and told they have a possible match and asked if I still wanted to have the transplant. They called again at 11:30 p.m. and said the transplant was a go and to be at the U of A Hospital emergency room by midnight. I was checked over and questioned about my health history then prepared for surgery. I showered using some iodine soap and told to try and get some sleep.

But I couldn't sleep — I was scared, yet excited at the same time.

At 6 a.m. on Aug. 6, they took me to the operating room and performed the transplant.
A few days after the operation the surgeon came to see me and talked to my wife and me and answered some of questions we had. He said the surgery took 3 1/2 hrs, there were no problems and I would be able to go home the following week.

It helped that I was young and was physically active before getting sick. He said I should be able to do anything I want to in about three months. So 10 days after the transplant I was sent home.
It was amazing, almost overnight I felt better than I had in almost 2 years. Through great care and working with the transplant team I have had no real problems and was able to return to work within six months.

Almost 13 years after my transplant, I am not held back by my condition — and just like the surgeon told me, I can do anything I like. I am still fairly active and I am very thankful to everyone who helped me through my ordeal. Yet I can't put into words how I feel about the family who gave me a second chance at a full and productive life by donating the heart of a loved one.
March 2007

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