By Lorelei Hill
16 Apr

My New Heart

Monday, April 16, 2012

On March 10, 2012, my hospital status changed from congenital cardiac patient to cardiac transplant patient.

It was 5:45 on the evening of March 9, the Friday evening of March Break. As customary since the move, things were quiet in our little apartment. Mike and the kids were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday, and so I was writing when the telephone rang.

It was week nine of my mother’s and my sabbatical to the city. Following the advice of my cardiologist, we had been living just four city blocks from the hospital throughout the winter months. The hope was that being in the city would somehow bring me a heart that much faster. By this time, I was beginning to doubt the validity of that theory, and had begun making preparations to pack up and go home.

“It’s for you!” I called when the high pitch trill of the phone rang out. Catching me off guard, it made me jump.

It was the landline. Everyone called me on my cell. The only time the landline rang was when an unannounced visitor accidentally buzzed the wrong apartment or if someone called for Mom.

The shrug of my mother’s shoulders told me she had no idea who it was on the other end. “It’s for you,” she said.

“Ms. Hill?” A woman confirmed when I took the receiver, “We may have a heart for you.”

Everything to follow has been surreal.

This was the first call, and while the question of this being a false alarm entered my mind, it was quickly dispelled. The woman was calling from home. In the background, her young daughter ‘Kate’ interrupted. “My daughter’s name is also Kate,” I told her, and a bond was immediately formed.

Mom had made the necessary calls. I packed a small bag, and as advised, downed a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt. My eyes glimpsed the words “dance” and “miracle” on a flyer as I boarded the hospital elevator, another sign my miracle had come. Forty-five minutes after hanging up the phone, we were sitting in the ICU.

I met briefly with one of my surgeons, who told me he couldn’t talk for long. “I’m going to retrieve your heart!” he announced, quickly explaining the plan.

A prominent pediatric cardiac surgeon from The Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) would be doing the procedure. “I’ll assist,” he told me, “but I’ve already done one heart transplant this morning, and with your condition, we all feel Dr. C is best for the job.”

This was just another sign. Throughout my adult life specialists had been called over from HSC to work with me, not the least of who was my cardiologist. This was a good thing. Being a congenital patient, I knew well of Dr. C.’s reputation. This surgery was meant to be. I knew all would be well.

When asked if I wished to leave my ailing heart to research, I jumped at the chance. My heart had served me well, and I couldn’t bear merely discarding it! Now it could be used to benefit others!

“This is the good Karma room!” my nurse announced as my family arrived, telling stories of whiteouts and drifting snow. Lying back, I noticed the picture of a blue butterfly. This magical symbol of hope and rebirth hung above my bed. I smiled calmly. That it was.

At 12:30 a.m. on March 10, 2012, my 13-hour surgery began. Memories of loving whispers and smiling faces drifted through my mind that following Sunday afternoon. I awoke.

Alone now, I opened my eyes and silently laughed. I was alive, and oh so blessed! Little heart was pumping—I could feel it! In that silent moment, I knew I was no longer a congenital kid. I had put my life in God and man’s hands and despite the odds, survived. Now it’s my turn to do all I can to keep this incredible miracle pumping.

More of my story coming next month…

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