Have a heart and donate it
“I felt like I was running a 2-stroke for 20 years, now I’m running a V8.”
That’s how Louise Owen described having a new heart.
Louise was born with a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that makes the heart muscle become thick, forcing it to worker harder to pump the blood.
About 20 years ago, while she was 26 weeks pregnant and working as a PE teacher, Louise had a cardiac arrest in front of her class. Luckily for her, she had taught the class CPR and they probably saved her life.
After being treated by an ambulance crew at the school she was flown to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, where the baby was removed by Caesarean and Louise was fitted with an auto defibrillator which kept her heart going.
Louise was eventually put on the waiting list for a new heart and in October last year, she was the recipient of a new heart. “I’ve got a young heart, it was from a 22-year-old. I don’t know their name, because the family are protected and the family don’t know me but I’m not hung up about that side of things. You have so much to deal with, so many issues,” she said.
Louise’s father died just two days after she was put on the heart recipient list and he told her, “I’ll find you a good heart”.
After the operation Louise said she regularly saw visions of her father and also of a person she believes was the donor.
Louise was in hospital for three weeks and had to spend another three months living near St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney where she had to have check ups every two days for acceptance levels.
Four months later she is still on a regime of 32 tablets a day.
“There have been thousands of needles... but you have to talk positive, think positive and remain positive all the time. But I’ve never felt better in my whole life... I can run up the 16 steps at the front of my home now, whereas before I would be huffing and puffing half way up... I put my hand on my heart every night and talk about acceptance,” she said.
Louise has been a passionate advocate for defibrillators and, working as a volunteer, has been involved in getting them fitted at railway stations and in corporate buildings around NSW.
“I’ve got so much energy, I’m not exhausted anymore.”
“I can’t explain how grateful I am to the donor family and friends for their gracious gift of giving me my life. I certainly want to tell my story, how my life was saved by the organ donation program.”
This week is Organ Donation Week and Louise was at Lismore Base Hospital on Monday sharing her tale.
The North Coast Area Health Service’s new director of organ and tissue donation Dr Michael Lindley-Jones was encouraging everyone to have the discussion about organ donation with their family.
“The overwhelming feedback is that although it is the saddest time in someone’s life (the death of a loved one), the act of organ donation can be a very positive thing,” he said.
Last year there were about 800 transplant operations in Australia, although there are about 1800 people on a waiting list.
Dr Lindley-Jones said although Australia had the best transplant success rate in the world, we have the second lowest donation rate.
The campaign this week is encourages people to inform themselves about the issues and discuss it with their family.
You can find out more and register to be a donor at the website www.donatelife.gov.
Although Louise can’t offer her heart up for donation again, she said she was “happy to be harvested” and has registered to have her eyes and other organs donated when she passes on.