My Journey – Amanda VanderHarst

I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when I was 9 months, right from the day my mom and dad brought me home they knew something wasn’t quite right. My mom was deemed the paranoid “first time” mother by many doctors, until she finally found a doctor in Cambridge, ON who listened to her and made the discovery. Since that day my parents were determined to let me live a normal life, not holding me back from anything. For that I am most grateful, this has everything to do with my attitude towards life and the fight that I have. Life was not always easy but I kept on going and with a smile on my face.

Every day I would awake to a detailed regimen that included taking many pills, doing physiotherapy, and taking puffers all of which would happen twice a day and would last about an hour long each time. So despite living a “normal” life, as time went on and I got older things became more difficult such as simple daily tasks, doing laundry, house cleaning, showering etc.

I met my husband Jason in 2006 and we moved in together a year later, we have now been married 1yr and what an amazing person he is, my rock. Our first year of marriage was to put it lightly quite the roller coaster ride, Jason was there every step of the way with the supportive attitude I needed. My parents who had endured the regimen with me daily as well as the endless doctor’s appointments were there every step of the way and so happy to see that Jason took such good care of me.

Two years ago my CF doctor in Hamilton, ON brought to our attention the fact that I would need to have a double-lung transplant as my disease had entered the end stages and my lungs were failing. I was exhausted all the time and had oxygen at home 24/7. In July 2011 I went through the assessment process and at that time was deemed too well to be listed. TGH continued to follow my progress and 6mths later I was finally listed, as my condition deteriorated slowly. Once listed in February of 2012 I began the strict exercise programme at TGH which is put in place to ensure you are physically in the best possible shape prior to surgery so that your recovery time is faster and you are the healthiest you can be. This meant travelling to Toronto 3 days/week until you get “the call”. My friends and family were the most amazing supporters I could have ever asked for, everyone stepped up and took turns taking me back and forth.

My incredible life changing journey was just about to kick into high gear, after 7.5mths of waiting for a double-lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) I received a call on Oct 14th, 2012 that would change life as I knew it! I was going to get my transplant. Once we arrived at the hospital “the great wait” began. I was admitted at 3:00pm, taken into surgery at 11:00pm and came out of surgery a whopping 9.5 hours later.

Recovery was smooth and steady. I will remember the chest tubes being removed as a very large high light. The wonderful team had me up and out of bed walking the halls in 2 days, after that there was no stopping me. With the encouragement from my family and the push from the physiotherapy group I was walking, riding a bike and back lifting weights before leaving the hospital 14days after surgery.

Once home I continue my weekly visits to TGH for the first 3mths to ensure my new lungs are well and like their new home. I am so grateful for this second chance at life and for the miracles that happen everyday. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my donor family and how they might be doing at this point in time, what amazing strength they showed in a time of such tragedy for their family.
I have many goals for the near future and can’t wait to meet them or even surpass them, here’s to a new life and a beautiful adventure!

Amanda VanderHarst
Double Lung Transplant, October 15, 2012
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