Miranda's heart transplant journey - Cardiac biopsies

Miranda Hill is a heart transplant recipient, inspiring business manager, full-time super mum and part-time university student. She is a long-time ambassador for the Institute and is particularly passionate about organ donation and cardiomyopathy research.

Here, Miranda shares her experience as a heart transplant survivor and explains what breakthroughs like Prof Andrew Jabbour’s virtual biopsy mean to those living with a second heart.

We hear about medical breakthroughs in the media but what do they mean to people?

What do they mean to people like me?

I'm Miranda and I've been a heart patient for 18 years. For 7 of those years I've been the grateful recipient of a donor heart.

Oh...and I'm not even 40.

After transplant, organ rejection is my number one fear. To monitor for rejection I have to go through cardiac biopsies.

I've had over 20.

They are not easy.

They are painful, they are triggering, they require high levels of mental and physical energy. They cause anxiety and stress and overwhelm.

And yes, a cardiac biopsy is exactly that - taking tiny pieces of the heart muscle to test for signs of rejection.

I am wheeled into the cold procedure room. The white light is clinical. I rub my bare feet against each other. I suppress my anxiety and fear. My voice trembles as I try to be brave.

I am awake the entire time.

I lay under an x-ray machine during the procedure. The doctors and nurses wear heavy lead coats and collars to protect them.

I wear nothing but a sheet.

They insert a wire and a sheath into a vein my groin. It winds and twists its way through my body and into my heart.

As it pushes past my kidneys my lower back throbs. It skims past my diaphragm and a sharp pain strikes in the tip of my shoulder blade. I wince. Stifling the need to shift my body to escape.

Once inside my heart the wire causes ectopic beats. I feel these. They feel like lead butterflies flapping their wings against my chest wall.

In the right position, watched closely on x-ray, the wire bites a piece of heart muscle from inside my heart. At best this feels like a rubber band snapping firmly against flesh. At worst it makes me writhe in agony.

The doctors pull it through the sheath and inspect it. If it's not good then they repeat the procedure over and over until they have 5 good pieces to examine for rejection.

And as a patient I endure this all, until it is done. Because that's what keeps me safe.

It keeps us all safe from rejection.

Tireless research and hours of analysing MRI's, patients participation and careful evaluation, eliminates heart patients having to go through this again.

That's what medical research does.

It helps people like me...


Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years