Life With A New Heart

My new heart came to me on April 27th of this year. Here’s what life’s been like during the four months after my transplant:

  • My daily experience now is all about drugs. I started off in hospital in Edmonton with a stunning rainbow collection of forty pills and capsules in the morning alone; these have now been whittled down to eighteen. And there are more to look forward to throughout the day. The anti-rejection drugs are a lifelong prospect, but some of the others will become negotiable. It’s exciting when I get to drop one from the slate.
  • Side effects are a natural go-along with medications. They can be less than pleasant at times, but they become the “new normal.” Interestingly, I have developed a total aversion to sweets. You could slide a piece of whipped-cream-topped hazelnut torte under my nose and I would not have the urge to salivate.
  • Water, water everywhere. I’ve been drinking at least two litres of water per day to keep my kidneys in good working order. This is another lifelong thing. Sometimes, when I’m standing around with my water bottle or glass of water in hand, I remind myself of character Julian on The Trailer Park Boys. He’s the one who always – no matter what he’s doing – has a tumbler of rum and coke in his hand. Just water for me, though.
  • Physiotherapy twice a week. I have a slave driver for a physiotherapist. She likes to take me to another level by tricking me into thinking I’m still on the old one. Good strategy when it comes to me. In any case, I am making progress. I can climb a flight of stairs!
  • Cardiac biopsies. These are performed every two to three weeks. A cardiologist sends a pair of miniature forceps down the jugular vein to retrieve bits of the heart, just to make sure the heart isn’t being rejected. The frequency of the procedure will diminish, but doctors will continue to go for the jugular throughout my life.
  • Summer in Calgary usually flashes by but this year it went by excruciatingly s-l-o-w-l-y. I experienced it in all its glory.
  • During the past four months, I got to spend quality time with the doctors and nurses of the cardiac transplant team at the Foothills Medical Centre. Best of all, during that super slow summer I got to spend more time with my amazing sisters, daughters and friends – wonderful caregivers and champions, all!

I finished this post right at the end of the four month mark and the next day I was admitted to hospital for post-surgery complications. The Transplant Team did promise that the first year would be difficult. No matter. I am at home now, my new heart is still strong, and the skies of September are achingly beautiful.

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