Debbie - heart valve recipient, VIC
Debbie was diagnosed with a heart murmur at the age of 12, however it wasn’t until she was 19 that she discovered things were a little more sinister than that.
During the process of applying for a job interstate, Debbie underwent a medical which uncovered a congenital heart condition called Bicuspid Aortic Valve. This occurs when the aortic valve develops with only two flaps (cusps) that open and close, instead of three. This condition may cause the aortic valve opening to become narrow or obstructed, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood into the body's main artery.
Debbie’s heart condition was monitored for several years through echocardiograms, however, over time, her heart had to work extra hard when going about everyday chores, leaving her increasingly breathless and tired.
In 2006, Debbie, then 42, urgently needed a heart valve transplant which required her to have open heart surgery. She had what is known as The Ross procedure – a specialised procedure that replaced her diseased aortic valve with her own pulmonary valve. The heart valve from a deceased donor was then transplanted to replace her pulmonary valve.
This transplant would not have been possible without the gift from someone who made the decision to become a tissue donor.
“I often think of my donor, they do go through my mind,” says Debbie.
“People who register to donate their organs and tissue, and families that honour their loved one’s decision, is such a kind and wonderful thing to do, at such an awful time,” she says.
These days, Debbie spends as much time with her family as she can, especially her two grandchildren, and enjoys life on her hobby farm in regional Victoria.
She is forever grateful to have been given such a gift and is encouraging everyone to get behind tissue donation.
Says Debbie, “It all gets back to having that conversation with your family. Making sure they know you want to be a donor, and that you want to help others.”