Real life

Breagha's Story

Two weeks after losing her younger sister to dilated cardiomyopathy, 19 year-old Breagha received the results of a genetic test carried out by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s Professor Diane Fatkin. The results revealed that she too was likely to develop the potentially deadly heart condition.

Characterised by stretching and thinning of the left ventricle, the condition that Breagha and her sister experienced gradually leads to total heart failure by which stage, the only cure is a heart transplant.

“When you’re young you don’t really pick up on symptoms that your heart is not normal,” she says. “My sister was the same and only noticed symptoms when she became very ill.”

Breagha was placed on medication but fairly quickly needed an implanted cardioverter defibrillator. Then with further deterioration in her health she became the first Australian recipient of the Mini Ventricular Assistance Device (MVAD).

The MVAD is a pump inserted in the heart, with a wire trailing outside the body to an external battery-pack. It’s roughly a third smaller than previously used devices and provides short-term life support for someone on the heart transplant list. 

Breagha’s sister had not survived the wait for a new heart. It was the desperate hope of Breagha’s medical team that the MVAD would buy her the time she needed until a new heart became available.

After seven months she got the call. It was mid-February last year and the most precious gift of all – a donor heart – was on its way to her. 

The bubbly 23 year-old is now enjoying university and realises she needs to start planning for the future.

“Before my transplant, the future wasn’t something I even contemplated,” she says frankly. “It just wasn’t on the table – but yeah, I’ll have to sort that out now,” she laughs.

Learn more about cardiomyopathy