By Marcie Dumais
Special to the Record
Very few people can say they held their heart in their hands, but Tim can. Tim is an organ recipient and an organ donor, having provided his birth heart to medical research after his first transplant. The following is his inspiring story.
Tim was born locally with a congenital heart defect, which caused him to have a narrow aorta, among other cardiac challenges. He had multiple surgeries as a baby and another when he was 17 years of age. While he rarely focuses on anything negative about his life, by his early 20s, Tim was limited in the activities he could participate in and the side effects of his medication were taking a toll on his quality of life.
In July of 1999, at 25 years of age with his heart working at about 37 per cent efficiency, Tim was placed on the organ transplant waitlist. Within only four days he received the life-saving pager alert indicating a donated heart was waiting for him in Vancouver. The subsequent steps, described by Tim as “exciting” and by his parents as “terrifying,” included air ambulance from Comox to Vancouver, then road ambulance with sirens blaring through downtown city traffic, followed by many hours in the operating room while his parents and older brother waited and prayed. Miraculously and thanks to the expert care Tim received, within four days, he was walking and within two weeks he was released from hospital feeling the victories of his new heart and the energy it provided.
In the years after Tim’s first heart transplant, beautiful things happened for Tim and because of Tim. He met and married the love of his life; they had two healthy children; he continued his career as an education assistant helping students with special needs; he took up mountain biking, archery, spent summers camping the North Island with family and friends, and could finally live life to the fullest.
In Tim’s early40s, his cardiac challenges increased again, quite significantly. Fortunately, his healthcare team deemed him a suitable candidate for another heart transplant and Tim and his family waited for the call while carrying on their daily lives as well as they could, despite Tim’s health decline. It took six months to find a match. During Christmas break of 2014, Tim underwent his second heart transplant.
“Having a family of my own, my second heart transplant felt different,” explains Tim. “Funny enough, I wasn’t worried about myself, I was concerned about my wife and my kids and the affect my health situation would have on them.”
Tim speaks highly of his medical team in Vancouver and appreciates his local family physician who has supported him for the last 15 years here at home.
“Having a doctor who is comfortable connecting with cardiac care specialists in Vancouver when my care gets complex and complicated is something I really value. His long history managing my regular healthcare needs is not something I take for granted.”
Nor are other local healthcare workers who have handled various procedures and regular testing and monitoring on this side of the pond. Tim sees them all as important.
“My family and I are forever grateful for the organ donors who saved my life, not once but twice, and for the remarkable healthcare provided in Vancouver and here at home,” says Tim. “My dad, my brother, and my mom, before she passed, were my tireless bedside supporters and essential to my recovery. I won the jackpot as far as family is concerned and I’ll always be thankful for that.”
In his 29th year working for the local school district, now an employee in the maintenance department, you might see Tim out mowing lawns or fixing a playground structure. Or perhaps you’ll bump into him swimming in the river or biking in the trails. We are grateful Tim wanted to share his story during this national week designated to raise awareness about the critical need for more donors across the country. Visit http://www.transplant.bc.ca/ for more information.
We are also excited to launch our Work Hard Play Hard 50/50 during this important awareness week with Tim’s story leading the campaign with so much heart. We play here. We work here. We make a life here. Please support great healthcare here in the Comox Valley by purchasing 50/50 tickets online. Visit https://cvhealthcarefdn.rafflenexus.com/to buy tickets. Proceeds from the raffle support the purchase of leading equipment for the Comox Valley Hospital. Special thanks to Courtney & Anglin Real Estate Group and Mindset Wealth, iA Private Wealth who are helping the Foundation offer this fun, easy way to contribute. Can we beat last year’s jackpot of $24,165? We think so! Buy your tickets today!
Marcie Dumais is the community engagement manager for the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation