She may not have a cape or be able to fly, but Lindsay Ma’s superpower is being able to survive and persevere through unimaginable adversity. At just 21 years old, Lindsay was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle thickens. Over the next seven years Lindsay required three different defibrillators, a small device that delivers electric shocks to the heart if necessary.
By the time she was 28, Lindsay’s health had declined to the point that doctors told her she needed a new heart to survive. Her heart was no longer able to sustain her and simple tasks like making a snack for her then four-year-old son were just too taxing. Her boyfriend had to carry her up and down the stairs in their Langley townhouse.
The hardest part was seeing how her illness affected her loved ones, especially her son “I was so weak, unable to really do anything fun with my son. I spent my days sick in bed or sleeping. My son ended up hanging out a lot with me in my room”. It was a scary time for Lindsay and her family, not knowing how much longer she had before her weakened heart gave out. “My skin was so pale, almost grey in color, while my lips were purple from a lack of oxygen” Lindsay recalls.
A heart transplant offered Lindsay the chance to reclaim her life, “When I was officially listed for a new heart, I was so hopeful. All I wanted want to live life again- be the mother and girlfriend that I was before I got so sick”.
Three months later, Lindsay received the call that she had been anxiously awaiting: a heart was available. This call came just in time.
Doctors had told her just days prior that she didn’t have much time.
It wasn’t until she awoke from her surgery that Lindsay understood just how sick her heart had been. “The first thing I remember was my heart beating in my chest. It was so strong! It was so weak before that I could hardly feel my pulse.” The changes in her health were immediate. Color returned to her face, she could breathe, she had energy.
The five years that have passed since Lindsay received her new heart have been truly amazing, filled with joy and life. In September 2016, Lindsay married the man she had loved for the past sixteen years, the man who had stood by her every step of her heart journey, the man who had carried her up the stairs when her own legs were to weak too walk. Now he was able to watch her walk down the aisle as his bride. But perhaps Lindsay is most grateful for the ability to be a mother. “My son is my hero. He is now nine and remembers the days when I was sick. We can do so much together now and the closeness we share is incredible. I owe that to my donor.”
Recently, Lindsay underwent an angiogram, an invasive test that is done to monitor the health of her transplanted heart. Unfortunately, the new was not good. “I am currently in chronic rejection, one of my main arteries is 70%
blocked and two other arteries are 60% blocked,” Lindsay shares.
Chronic Allograft Vasculopathy, is one of the greatest threats to long term survival for heart transplant patients. It involves the unusual, and often rapid, progression of coronary disease. Commonly, the only treatment option is another transplant. Research has advanced our understanding of how the immune system plays a role in the development of this disease, but prevention, early diagnoses and treatment are still challenging. Lindsay recognizes the harsh reality of her situation but remains positive, “We will explore other treatments, but if nothing works, another transplant may be in the future. This is very scary, as I have not had any major problems until now. I am trying to stay positive and hope for a good outcome. Fingers crossed.”