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47. #50YearsofTransplant: Shenaya Sweetman

Shenaya is a two-time heart recipient cherishing every day with her family in Kelowna. Fast forward 30 years after transplant, she is feeling stronger and healthier than ever.
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Can you tell us what led to you needing a transplant?

"I was born with cardiomyopathy and at age 10 I went into heart failure. I was on a breathing machine and barely surviving. The only option was to receive a heart transplant."

What was the day like when you found out there was a heart match for you?

"I was so ill, I don't remember the day at all. My first heart rejected and I needed another transplant at age 13, two years after my first transplant. The second time we got the call, I was in shock. It all went so quickly. I was in the hospital in less than 20 minutes and admitted into surgery."

How has your quality of life been since receiving the transplant?

"I am like every other human being and I would say even stronger, and possibly healthier than some. My donor truly gave me the gift of life and I've made sure to set big goals and accomplish them ever since. I completed high school, university and graduate school. I've worked full time since I was 20. I am happily married and we adopted our son through the Canadian Ministry and have been a happy little family. If it wasn't for my transplant I would have never been introduced to adoption and I'm grateful to have our son in our lives. He made our family complete and we did the same for him." 

What would you like to say to the medical teams that are so vital to the success of transplant in our province and in your own circumstance?

"Continue your research to improve the immunosuppressant medication, continue to create less invasive procedures to detect rejection at an early onset and continue to build your medical teams and ambassadors to advocate for organ donation for the future."

Have you been in touch with your donor family?

"No, my transplant was 30 years ago and back then they would not share donor family information. I would love to be in touch with my donor's family."

Having seen the miracle of transplant so closely, how important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions to donate to family and friends?

"It's invaluable to promote and raise awareness of organ donation. I believe that when your time is up on Earth, you can help save someone else. Be their hero. Help a daughter or a mother and be there for their family just like my organ donor helped me. I fully believe in the transplant team motto, 'Live Life. Pass it On!'"

What's your perspective on the milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant in BC?

"50 years of saving lives and creating hope is monumental! I've been part of it all for more than half of those years and that's pretty special."

50in50; BC Transplant
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