Sherene Wright has already experienced a couple of miracles. Now she, her family and friends are praying for a third.
The 32-year-old mother of two needs a new heart. She's high on the Manitoba transplant list but doesn't know when her call will come.
Photo: John Woods, Winnipeg Free Press
There are about 170 cardiac transplants performed in Canada every year. While there are usually just a handful of Manitobans waiting for a heart transplant, wait times vary according to how sick the patient is, his or her blood type and the size of heart required.
This weekend, Wright's situation grew dire. In an urgent operation, she had an LVAD (ventricular assist device) installed because her doctors felt her heart wasn't strong enough to survive the wait for a transplant. She came through the surgery well.
Wright was born with a condition in which the heart's ability to pump blood is decreased. She didn't let her bum heart slow her down as a kid. She said recently she probably never knew what it was like to feel healthy.
"I played sports," she said last week from her bed in the critical care unit at St. Boniface Hospital. "I was active."
Bobbi Green, her best friend since grade school, said she didn't understand how sick her friend was when they were kids.
"I suppose she just decided from a very early age that her heart disease was not something that would hold her back," Green said. "She never complained about all the tests she endured or the many medications she would need to take."
Wright grew up, married and, at 25, became pregnant. Her doctors told her early on she'd never bear a child. Her pregnancy was uneventful and Kaylin, now seven, was born healthy.
Wright went to school and became an X-ray technologist. She was an active mom. Wright is a friendly, vivacious woman. Even in a hospital gown, she radiates beauty and humour.
Two years ago, she and her now-estranged husband learned they were expecting their second child. Things went terribly wrong. At 20 weeks, Wright was admitted to hospital for an overnight evaluation. She had been retaining fluid and experiencing arrhythmia.
She would spend the remainder of her pregnancy at St. Boniface Hospital. Her medical team was concerned about her heart. She was focused on her child. Baby Averie was born 11 weeks early. She weighed two pounds, 10 ounces. Miraculously, the now two-year-old is fine.
Several months ago, her friends saw her losing weight, growing pale and becoming listless. They attributed it to the breakup with her husband. Her doctors realized the problem was much more serious.
Tests proved her heart was failing.
"I was a mess," Wright said last week. "It was kind of surreal. I have really awesome doctors and they reassured me. But to be told you need a heart transplant, I was in denial. I was hoping I didn't really need it. I was hoping with diet and exercise I could get stronger."
She was admitted to hospital in October. She's still there, now recovering from her mechanical pump surgery. If all goes well, she can return home to wait for her heart transplant.
For the past several months, she has only seen her active toddler two or three times a week. A critical care unit is no place for a wee one. Her older daughter is confused by her mother's absence.
"I tell her that I need a new heart. Mine is broken. I don't think she understands. I couldn't make it up the stairs anymore."
The LVAD surgery will not make her healthy. It just buys her a little time.
Bobbi Green wrote to me because Wright's friends are having a Bud and Spud to pay for Wright's mom's expenses to accompany her to Edmonton for the transplant. The event is sold out. An "I heart Sherene" trust fund has been set up at Assiniboine Credit Union.
Green also wanted to encourage people to sign their donor cards. This is Heart Month, so reminders will be everywhere.
"I want to tell families what a good thing this is," Wright said last week from her hospital bed. "You can save someone's life."
You could save hers. Sign the donor card and tell someone your wishes. Someone's mom is waiting.
“You Have the Power to Donate Life – to become an organ and tissue donor Sign-up today!
Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
New Zealand, register at Organ Donation New Zealand
South Africa, http://www.odf.org.za/
United States, donatelife.net
United Kingdom, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You.