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From life support to
Mount Kosciuszko 

Every day, the scientists at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute discover more about how to help people of all ages survive and avoid heart disease. People like Jayden - a single dad who came down with the flu and ended up needing a heart transplant.  

Below is a letter personally written by Jayden which follows his journey into hospital and to the top of Mount Kosciuszko with a mechanical heart. The letter is addressed to you, with the hope that you can make a difference.       

Dear Stranger,

1991 was a year that left an indelible mark on me. It was the year I lost my beautiful mother, Lesley, to dilated cardiomyopathy brought on by a virus. She was just 44 years old.

At the time, we agreed for Mum’s heart to be taken and examined as part of research into viral myocarditis and Cardiomyopathy, hoping that it might help people in the future who were unfortunate enough to contract this crippling disease. We were told that breakthroughs were being made, and cardiothoracic surgery, pioneered by the incomparable Dr Victor Chang and his colleagues, were promising to be a game-changer.

Sadly, just a couple of months later, we lost Dr Chang.

Fast-forward to 2017. I was a 46 year old single dad who had always enjoyed an active lifestyle. A perfect afternoon, for me, involved hitting the cricket nets with my then 13 year old son, Henry.

In August, I got the flu - like so many other Australians. I thought nothing of it at the time, but the virus attacked my heart and I gradually got sicker before ending up in the same hospital that Mum had passed away in.

Within days I was placed on ECMO (full life-support) and transported to hospital in a coma. My heart simply shut down, along with my liver and kidneys.

At that stage I was too sick for a heart transplant, so my only option was an artificial heart to try and keep me alive until a donor heart became available. I flat-lined during surgery, but the amazing team at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, brought me back and kept me alive. 

I woke up from my coma, weeks later, with a mechanical heart.

It took some time for reality to sink in. I had inadvertently found myself in the same situation as my mum. But I survived. Why? To be honest, I really struggled with that question. Why had I survived?

The simple answer was research. The work done by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute had saved my life. And suddenly a romantic and beautiful thought occurred to me; maybe the research done on my beautiful mum’s heart all those years ago, actually went towards changing my outcome? What if, in some small way, my mum is the reason I’m still here?

For 436 days I was kept alive by my mechanical heart which I carried around in a bag. I felt like a cyborg! But I didn't want to let that hold me back. So with my heart literally on my hip, I climbed Mount Kosciuszko from the base and participated in the City to Surf fun run.

Then early in 2019, at 4.30 one Sunday morning, I answered the most incredible call of my life – a heart had become available. 

Sitting in the hospital with my family as they prepped me for surgery, we were confident. We were grateful. And we were sad. We knew that in another hospital somewhere, right at that moment, a family was saying goodbye to their loved one. And in all that grief, they went ahead and supported his decision to donate his organs.

That was 12 months ago, and I will never be able to truly articulate the feeling of gratitude that I and my entire family have for the incredible medical team at St Vincent’s Hospital, the research team at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and my beautiful donor and his family. The best thing about receiving a heart from an organ donor is that it comes already filled with love and generosity. I see my only task, moving forward, is to keep it full.

I am also so incredibly grateful to you for supporting the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Without you, this life-saving research would not be possible. And I would not be alive. 

This is the kind of difference that your gift to heart research can make.

For what it’s worth, this Summer I was back in the cricket nets with my son. 

If you can, please donate to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. 

Thank you x

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