The following post has been written by a very dear friend of mine. She is without question one of the most inspiring, caring and loving people I know. She is also one of the bravest.
Renee has faced adversity beyond anything many of us will ever experience in our lives and come through it with grace, gratitude and love in her heart. I am privileged to know and love their family, and proud that she has allowed me to share their story here.
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This time ten years ago I was pregnant with triplets. This time ten years ago I didn’t know whether my husband was going to live or die.
July 18th will be the tenth anniversary of Mark's heart transplant, a 17-hour operation that gave him a second chance at life. We are so thankful for that chance. Our lives would have been so different, and so empty without it. In May 2002, I was three months pregnant with triplets, and Mark had been waiting almost two years for a new heart. Every day he was getting sicker and sicker. He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t work anymore and even walking to the end of our driveway was a big effort for him. We were seeing the cardiologists and transplant team regularly. I remember sitting in one of our appointments seeing the doctors and having them tell us that if a heart didn’t become available for Mark within three months he would die. How could I possibly live my life without him? How could I raise triplets on my own? Our situation was desperate and I was scared, so very scared. On July 4th I was put in hospital on strict bed rest due to complications with my pregnancy. At 8pm on July 17th, Mark received the phone call from the transplant coordinator telling him that a heart had become available. He rang to tell me the news. A short while later he came into the hospital to kiss me goodbye. He was taken into theatre at midnight and put under anaesthetic at 1am on July 18th. 17 hours later the surgery was finished. I doubt that the mix of emotions I feel over all of this will ever leave me; perhaps it is a good thing that I carry these feelings with me. I wish that I had journalled all that had happened during the year of 2002. I wish I had a written record of what I felt during the moments leading up to Marks transplant, and the hours that I waited and waited to hear from the doctors at the hospital.
I remember them calling me several times, saying “We can't stop the bleeding. The heart is in, but we can't stop the bleeding, his chest is still open”. Horrendous things to be told when you are aching to be at the hospital where your husband is, but stuck in another hospital knowing that if you get up you are risking the lives of your three unborn children.
I am grateful that my obstetrician conceded and allowed me to have a single one hour visit with him as long as I remained lying down. I am grateful for the liaising between hospitals to make that possible. What a sight we must have been, him lying in his ICU bed and me lying next to him in the recliner chair. I will never forget the first thing I noticed about him lying in that bed. Even looking so weak, with tubes and lines going everywhere, he still looked better than he had looked in months. His lips and his fingers were pink, no longer blue. Ten years later his lips are still nice and pink ;) Ten years on he is active. He is healthy. He is the father to six children. He is working full time and he is fit. Last year he did the 5km run for “Run Melbourne” to honour our donor and donor family and to raise money for Transplant Australia. This year he is doing “Run Melbourne” again, but this year he is doing the 10km run. 10km for the 10 years that he has had his donor heart. If you would like to sponsor him in this run you can donate here. Ten years ago there was a family somewhere else in Australia who were grieving the loss of their son, but who had seen beyond their grief enough to give several other people another chance at living. To that family I am eternally grateful, and today I remember your son and cry for him and for your loss. Today I also remain thankful because ten years on and six kids later, my precious husband is more full of life than he ever has been before.
Because of this remarkable gift we have an amazing life together. Mark lives every day to the full and we can never take it for granted.
Life truly is a gift. Our donor family asked us many years ago to wear red on the anniversary to honour their son. As the years have gone on family and friends have joined with us in wearing red to honour our donor and to celebrate the gift of life. If you want to join with us on July 18th then we would love for you to wear red too! You can register online to be a tissue and organ donor here. Recording your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register is voluntary and you have complete choice over which organs and/or tissue you wish to donate. You must be 16 years or older to register.
The Donor Register lets authorised medical staff who have permission from the Australian Government check your donation decision anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can then give that information to your family if you die.
Family consent is always needed before donation can go ahead, so remember to discuss your decision with your family and those close to you.