Sharareh Ahmadzadeh shook off her feeling of fatigue, thinking she was exhausted after her latest overseas holiday. Admitted to hospital late one January night with abdominal pain, bloating and breathing difficulties, the 28-year-old was eventually diagnosed with dilated myopathy.
It’s a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently. The decreased heart function can affect the lungs, liver, and other body systems. It occurs more frequently in men than women, between the ages of 20 and 60. About one in three cases of congestive heart failure is due to dilated cardiomyopathy.
The university graduate was referred to a cardiologist, started her graduate diploma in primary school teaching and remained in reasonable health until August.
“Again I was a bit tired and I went downhill suddenly. I was admitted to Royal Perth Hospital for full tests.”
In October, she was fitted with an ICD, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. It’s main role is to detect and rapidly convert a life-threatening heart pattern. The ICD provides a shock to the heart or paces it rapidly. She recalls her doctor describing it as “my life insurance policy to address any dangerous heart rhythms”. That came true in February 2012 when her heart went into arrhythmia and the device kicked in.
For the next few months, Sharareh was in and out of hospital. “I was more in than out.” She was fitted with a VAD, a ventricular assist device or mechanical pump to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and pumps it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.
Her condition was not improving. Her lungs were filling with fluid. When Sharareh was told three weeks later that a heart had become available for transplant, she was overjoyed. “My condition was getting worse and I implored the doctors to do something. When I was told a heart had become available, I thought it was kind of cool. It was perfect timing and I was very thankful.”
Sharareh was discharged from hospital two weeks later. Three months post-transplant, she returned to university to finish her teaching qualification. In 2013, she was employed as a relief primary school teacher, giving her flexibility to work as many or as few hours as her health and energy levels permitted. “When you have set an activity for a child, it’s great to see that sense of achievement in their eye when they have learned something,” she said.
Since then, Sharareh has resumed her love of travel and intends to “live life to the fullest”.