The box opened up my donor pool

Friday - - Inside - ⦁ Sharareh Ah­madzadeh, 30, lives in Dianella, Western Aus­tralia

to an ex­ter­nal lead that at­tached to a bat­tery pro­vid­ing the power to keep me alive. My doc­tor told me the pump worked for 90 per cent of pa­tients with my con­di­tion. But I got worse.

My lungs filled with two litres of fluid and I had to be re­peat­edly put un­der anaes­thetic so my heart could be shocked back to a nor­mal rhythm. Once it took six at­tempts.

Walk­ing 10 steps ex­hausted me. I was slowly dy­ing and I was ter­ri­fied. Each day I won­dered how I’d get through the next 24 hours. Nor­mally pos­i­tive, I was slowly giv­ing up hope.

“A heart will be­come avail­able,” Mum kept re­as­sur­ing me. But she was as scared as I was. The one pos­i­tive thing was that thanks to a new in­ven­tion I had a bet­ter chance of get­ting a heart. The hos­pi­tal had the Tran­sMedics Or­gan Care Sys­tem (OCS) and all the doc­tors and nurses were re­ally ex­cited about it.

Nor­mally, donor or­gans were packed in ice and trans­ported in what was ba­si­cally a cool box, like the one you’d use for a pic­nic. But the or­gans de­te­ri­o­rated quickly. And Aus­tralia is a big coun­try; hearts could have to travel long dis­tances to the pa­tients who need them.

“A heart flown from any fur­ther away than Ade­laide or Alice Springs, which would take about three and half hours, won’t sur­vive to be used in Perth,” a doc­tor told me. “But an or­gan placed in the OCS is kept beat­ing with trans­fused donor blood for up to eight hours, just like a liv­ing heart.” It sounded like science fic­tion – a heart beat­ing in a box. But it opened up most of Aus­tralia as a donor pool, giv­ing me more chance of re­ceiv­ing one. All I had to do was stay alive long enough but each day I was get­ting sicker. Soon I was vir­tu­ally bedrid­den, too weak to move.

Three weeks af­ter the open-heart surgery my spe­cial­ist came to see me in my hos­pi­tal bed. “We’ve got a heart for you,” he smiled. I looked at him, stunned. This was my chance. I called Mum – she screamed, then cried. I was sim­ply hum­bled. It was an over­whelm­ing gift of life. I thought of the fam­ily who’d made the in­cred­i­bly brave de­ci­sion to do­nate the heart of their loved one.

“What must they be go­ing through?” I won­dered tear­fully. It was in­cred­i­ble that peo­ple could be so giv­ing to a stranger.

Early the next morn­ing I went into an­other eight-hour op­er­a­tion. I was a bun­dle of fear and nerves – it had been only a few weeks since my last open-heart op­er­a­tion. I knew any­thing could go wrong and there was a chance I might not wake up. But I had hope too. I was young, I wanted to live, and for some rea­son, I just knew this donor heart could save me.

Mum, my step­dad and my big brother Ter­rance were there when I came round. I burst into tears, re­lieved I’d made it. Pain sliced through my chest but the painkillers helped, as did the knowl­edge that now I had a chance to live. “I’m just so happy,” Mum cried, hold­ing me. “You’re go­ing to be OK.”

The doc­tors were pleased with how the op­er­a­tion had gone. “You’re here be­cause of the OCS,” one of them said. “You’re the first per­son in the South­ern Hemi­sphere to ben­e­fit from it.”

I was shocked. My heart had prob­a­bly come from in­ter­state. With it beat­ing in­side me, I felt strong, and five days af­ter the op I was walk­ing.

Slowly, ev­ery day, I got a lit­tle bit stronger and af­ter three weeks I was dis­charged. I went back to col­lege to fin­ish my diploma and to the gym to get fit. I feel great now. Last month I took part in a fundraiser 8km walk for the West Aus­tralian Heart Foun­da­tion.

Many times I’ve tried to write a let­ter thank­ing the fam­ily of my or­gan donor, but I can’t find the words. ‘Thank-you’ doesn’t seem enough. With­out a heart trans­plant I would have had just weeks left to live.

I’ll al­ways be in awe of the tech­nol­ogy that saved my life and the courage of the donor fam­ily. Bet­ter than most, I know life can be short and so I in­tend to get the most out of ev­ery sin­gle day. It’s the least I can do in re­turn for the gift I’ve been given, the best one of all – life.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.