Heart and lung transplant
At 25, Evlyn became the youngest person in WA to have a heart and lung transplant.
“I count myself very lucky.”
Evlyn’s transplant marked a major change in her life after being in a wheelchair for eight months, taking only shallow breaths for three years and being dependent on others for help.
“I had been doing things a certain way for years and had to re-teach myself, yes I can breathe, yes I can walk. I walked in to a couple of walls, legs decided to go this way when the brain was saying go straight.
“I take many pills a day but it’s all worth it. I would rather take the pills and be alive and able to do things than be on oxygen and limited to a wheelchair.”
After her transplant, she looked forward to regaining her independence, driving again,learning to surf, getting a job and saving to travel.
Evlyn was born with a congenital heart defect, specifically patent ductus, trans-position of the main artery from the heart as well as a hole in her heart. She had her first operation at nine months to improve her circulation.
“I was always puffed as a kid even from walking. I think I stopped running in primary school.”
She completed school, studying tourism and business, found a job and rented a house with a friend.
“I had yearly check-ups with my cardiologist and my health was pretty good until I hit my twenties and I started going out, as all young people do! We always thought it was my heart that was the problem until I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2005, which is a lung condition.”
She went to her local doctor with flu-like symptoms and was diagnosed with asthma. Three months later, with her abdomen swollen and her breathing difficult, she was admitted to Royal Perth Hospital emergency with heart failure. Two days later she was told she needed a heart and lung transplant. “That was a bit of a shock!”
In May 2006, after six-months on the waiting list, her condition improved and she was taken off the list and off oxygen when in public. “I could walk around shopping centres without oxygen but would have it on at home. My little green hose would follow me around the house.”
In 2007 after a bout of pneumonia, her condition deteriorated and she was put back on the list.
“The waiting was tough because I couldn’t go out anywhere by myself to go shopping and having someone push me in a wheelchair I just hated. It was a bit hard on mum and dad and I lost my patience quite a bit. I couldn’t cook on the gas stove because I was on oxygen. I couldn’t do my washing or hang it out because lifting my arms was counted as cardio and I wasn’t supposed to raise my heart rate too much. I could go to my friend’s houses and hang out but couldn’t be around people who had colds.
She remembers exactly where she was when her pager went off at dinner time in July 2008.
“I had the first piece of food on my fork and was about to put it in my mouth . My Mum and sister thought the smoke alarm had gone off. I put my fork down and said: “They have got me a donor!”
“My sister started crying and mum was shaking. I rang the hospital. As soon as we got there at 7pm they started with all the forms. I had a shower, the Registrar came in and said I would be going in at 9pm. I saw my dad and brother-in-law. Then I was put on the gurney and taken away. I remember mum saying “Fight, fight hard”.
“I remember going into the surgery, lying there before they started putting lines in and everything. I was looking around and didn’t recognise anyone so I started crying. Then my nurse, Sharon came in and held my hand until I fell asleep. Apparently I said to the doctors and nurses “You are going to wake me up aren’t you?”
After an eight-hour operation, Evlyn was in intensive care and then a ward for three weeks.
Returning home, it took a couple of weeks and then I could dress myself and then a few more and could bend down to tie my shoes. She used to have to come a lift me out of bed. There was pain in my chest for a while after the operation and I couldn’t push myself up to get out of bed. I had to roll and she had to help me up. I used a phone to call her to help me. With the medication I was on I had to go to the toilet at 1am, 3am, 6am so poor mum had to drag herself out of bed to come down to the other end of the house to help me. It was pretty funny at times.
Mum and dad know how much I appreciate them. I tell them all the time. I owe them my life and thank them. Thanks also to the rest of my family, friends, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, or ‘terrorists’ as they are called, for being there, for pushing me along, telling me I could do it and believing in me.