I was lucky, in a way. It was quick. I only dealt with heart trouble for a few months. My heart died all of a sudden. There was no time to really be afraid or worry about it. One day it was fine, the next it was useless. My focus shifted from being a regular high schooler to waiting for that new heart. That new heart would be my saviour. Once I got that, I’d get to go back to being a regular high schooler. That isn’t entirely true. With a transplant comes constant testing and new precautions and a new medical side to life, no one ever wants. It’s hard and scary and unpleasant. Every time I go for testing, I’m reminded that this time, something could be wrong. In fact, I’m fairly convinced of it until I see those test results. Then I allow myself to relax again for a few months.
There’s no reason this heart should fail. Except for stats and figures. I realized the other day that the first heart transplant was only 21 years before I was born. The stats and figures aren’t that old. And with how fast technology changes, there’s no reason I should worry. You know what? It’s now been 21 years since I got this new heart. Twenty-one years of advancement in science and care.
That’s the other reason I don’t have to worry; care. I live in the same city as my heart hospital. I can call and talk to my transplant clinic. I’m 15 minutes away. This is both great and somewhat traumatic. It’s hard to live close by. It was incredibly scary to live there for five months. I went from only ever going to the hospital because I broke my thumb, to suddenly living in one, attached to a life-sustaining machine, for five whole months.
Twenty-one years later and I still have trouble breathing when I walk in. All of the fear and loneliness of when I was thirteen years old floods back and I try my best not to let it take hold while I fly through the halls getting one test done after another. Five tests and then I go home. Five tests and then I do whatever I want. I can do that.
Being there is terrifying. During the last two pandemic years, I’ve had to go by myself. Usually, someone comes with me. Going by myself is an interesting experience. I’m fully relying on the staff for support, instead of whoever came with me. It’s long, lonely, and hard and I feel crazy for feeling so scared. But they seem to understand. Without even saying anything, they seem to understand.
So, this is to them.
To the echo tech who makes jokes, you’re hilarious. You made me laugh in the scariest place on earth. You’re amazing.
To the Chinese doctor who came to Canada, you told me you’re happy I’m here. You said back home people like me die and you’re so happy that didn’t happen to me. You made me feel special. Thank you for being here. You also weren’t mad that I was late because I got lost. You literally welcomed me with open arms, you are the best.
To the PET scan lady who got me warm blanket after warm blanket and held my hand even though I told her I was OK, you are the absolute GOAT.
To whoever decided there should be music in the PET scan room even though we can barely hear it, thumbs up to you! It really helps me focus on something other than the feeling that I’m dying in that test.
To every phlebotomist who takes one look at me and grabs a butterfly needle. I low-key love you. I breathe a little easier when I see you grab that butterfly. You always get it on the first try. You make the whole experience as easy as possible.
To my nurse from 21 years ago who now works on the second floor, I know you know it’s me and I know it’s you and I’ll love you forever and will forever think of you when I see a purple car. (There’s one where I live. So, it turns out, that’s a lot!)Thanks for the winks. You’re the best.
To the person who does chest X-rays and has for the last 21 years. I’ll always remember your soothing voice next to my ear during the awful biopsies in the early days.
To my transplant doctor who took care of me for 17 years. Why’d you have to go and retire? It’s OK. I’ll allow it. I know you always thought I was uncomfortable, but I was less uncomfortable around you. (That’s a big deal!) Thanks for supporting me for so long. P.S. I still don’t believe those hospital gowns are from Paris.
To all the nurses who took care of me almost 21 years ago, you were my family. I miss you.
To everyone at the Heart Institute who has taken care of me for the last 21 years and who will take care of me for the next 80 (sorry in advance), you are all the reason I get to celebrate Heart Month every year. I wouldn’t be able to do it without you.
I was lucky, in a way. It was quick. I live in the same town as my heart hospital. That’s why I’m here. Heart Month isn’t just about celebrating the victories over heart disease. It’s also about avoiding it altogether. Take care of your tickers! But if, by some unfortunate turn of events, something happens to your heart like it happened to mine, welcome to the family. You’re in good hands ❤