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My precious gift of life
Organ donation and transplantation is truly one of the greatest miracles of modern medicine and surgery. But you don’t realize how special this most precious “Gift of Life” is until you or your family, or someone you know has experienced such a miraculous new lease on life. My name is Jacqueline, “Jacquie” most of the time, and I’m fortunate to be one of those organ recipients to have been given a second chance because of a young woman’s extreme generosity and thoughtfulness.
I’m 67 years old, always fortunate to enjoy good health other than the usual childhood diseases, colds and bouts of bronchitis. I married Fred in 1960 raising three daughters, enjoying the outdoors and helping with the farm duties, my favourite job – hauling grain. I always thought I was the proverbial “Iron Horse”, so when I walked into emergency gasping for air on August 22, 1988, my life was to change drastically. I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure with a 16% ejection fraction and considered a borderline heart transplant. Three weeks in hospital, on telemetry and after a lot of tests, an angiogram indicated that I had Left Ventricular Cardiomyopathy when an undetected virus caused damaged to the left ventricle.
I changed my lifestyle, pacing myself and surpassed my cardiologist’s prediction “that in 5 years I’d stay the same, get better or get worse”; however, in my 6th year I was showing signs of failure and my cardiologist suggested it was time to consult his colleagues regarding transplantation. After my rigorous 2-week assessment, the cardiac team informed me that I had “6 months to 1 year to live”. After a 2-month wait including two dry runs, I received that most important call and had my surgery early next morning. I remained in hospital for 25 days. Finally, after a 3-month stay, I was able to return home. I had the all clear “No Rejection”.
A year later, by chance, I discovered something special regarding my organ donor. I was indeed a DOMINO TRANSPLANT, meaning that I had a living donor. I called the young woman and not knowing I would call us the “Bobbsey Twins”, so amid great emotion I told her she must be responsible for my generous gift of life. Now we make our annual health evaluations at the same place. Although a few years have passed, our meetings are still very emotional and we can reminisce about our miraculous experience. We usually try to celebrate her birthday and our good health by dining out at a favourite restaurant.
Domino heart transplants are performed frequently in Great Britain and the United States. So far I haven’t been able to locate any in Canada. With there being a shortage of organ donations, often when a patient receives a double lung and heart transplant, that patient’s own heart may still be healthy for another recipient.
There aren’t enough words to express my gratefulness to my donor for her most precious “Gift of Life”, for her extreme generosity has given me a second chance. We celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary in 2005 and my 67th birthday this year. I’m able to be independent, enjoy gardening, and canning. “These little things mean a lot!” I enjoy our trips out West to visit our two daughters. Best of all, Fred has taught me the enjoyment of fishing. I can even reel in the elusive Master Angler Walleye! I’m grateful to enjoy my three special angels, my beautiful granddaughters Kaylee (13), Cassandra (12) and newborn baby Skylar.
In closing, I would like to dedicate my story to my very dear donor, another special angel; my husband Fred for all his care and support and just for being there; Kelly, Kaylee, Brenda, Sandra, Brent and Cassandra, my relatives and friends, for all their support during a very difficult time.
Special gratitude and deepest appreciation to everyone who cared for me at London Health Sciences Centre – for all their kindness and treating us like family. Also, a special thanks to the Sisters of Mount St. Joseph.
Everyone’s kindness will never be forgotten. You will ALL have a SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART!
The Miracle of Friendship
There’s a “Miracle called FRIENDSHIP”
That dwells within the HEART
And you don’t know how it happens
Or when it gets its start …
But the happiness it brings you
Always gives a special LIFT,
And you realize that FRIENDSHIP
Is GOD’S most precious GIFT!