Q&A with a heart transplant recipient

Q&A with a heart transplant recipient

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MEET Michael Sullivan, husband and father of two. He has a second lease on life thanks to his donor and their family.
Michael is a heart transplant recipient.

Q & A

How was your health before you were diagnosed with the underlying medical condition that caused organ failure? What was the official diagnosis?

Prior to falling ill I was extremely active – umpiring baseball, refereeing hockey and participating with several community groups. But my idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy started to slow me down and I became very sick. In 2011 I was placed on the heart transplant waitlist.

Can you explain what it was like to get a call letting you know that a heart had come available and it was a match? What happened next?

I was on the transplant wait list for 11 months, but I can recall the ‘call’ vividly. When I was listed I was provided with a cellphone and a pager by London Health Sciences Centre. As time went by, I was becoming more and more sick to the point where total fatigue had set in and I was sleeping 20 hours a day. It was about 11 p.m., I had just gone to bed and I left my assigned cellphone in the living room. My wife could not sleep so she got up, when all of a sudden the phone started to ring. Now normally the phone was beside me all the time, so when the phone rang she hurried down to the bedroom and instructed me to answer the phone. I told her I had left it in the living room, but as she ran back to get it

for me the phone stopped ringing. All I heard her say was: “Oh my! Are you kidding me?!” We called back and were reassured that the phone call was indeed the call I had been waiting for. Shortly thereafter, in the middle of the night, we were on our way to London Health Sciences Centre.

How has your quality of life changed post-transplant?

Post-surgery I felt like a new person. I only spent three days in the ICU and was released from the hospital only 13 days after my transplant surgery.

It was during my recovery that I decided to give back, so I became an advocate with Trillium Gift of Life Network and the national treasurer of the Canadian Transplant Association. I’ve also participated in several Canadian Transplant Games (2012, 2014 and 2016), winning numerous medals – gold, silver and bronze!

As a transplant recipient, how would you describe the gift that your donor and his/her family gave to you?

The gift of life is indescribable. Every morning when I wake up, I quietly thank my donor and their family. This truly is the gift of life to not only me, but my entire family. My wife and I can now live our lives without any restrictions.

If you had one message to share with the general public about why they should register as a donor, what would it be?

I have a t-shirt that sums it all up for me, and it says: “Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here.” Please register today at www.BeADonor.ca. One day this act could save a life.

About Trillium Gift of Life Network

Trillium Gift of Life Network is a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation for transplantation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved.

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