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
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
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
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.