It was a cold January evening in 2018 and Jason Gray-Stanford was winding up work on the penultimate episode of The X-Files television series.As he finished his workday, something felt amiss – he felt like he was getting the flu.
Much to his shock, he was soon after diagnosed with heart failure.
His heart function had begun to slowly decline.
His condition remained stable for a time and was manageable, but by late 2020 - as the world was grappling with the pandemic rolling across the globe – it took a turn for the worse.
"Unfortunately, and through no fault of my own, I was dealt a bad hand in the heart department. It happens."
He was told he needed a heart transplant as soon as possible. He says, "I knew at the beginning that it was a possibility sometime down the line, but I had no idea my heart would or could go downhill so quickly."
In November 2020, the once fit and active award-winning actor – who had no previous health problems - received a new heart, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jason barely had time to process the fact that he had been listed for transplant, when a heart became available. "I was fortunate because a very closely-matched donor came up soon after I was listed. There wasn't even time to think about it. It was literally, 'let's do this, and make me better.'"
Jason received his new heart at St. Paul's Hospital, the provincial heart-transplant centre for adults, with Dr. Jamal Bashir and his team performing the surgery.
Jason's was one of a record-breaking 33 heart transplants in 2020 in BC, three of those performed on children.
He's had time since the transplant to reflect on the experience. "It was very emotional and surreal as it sunk in – I have a completely new heart beating inside me, stronger than ever and keeping me alive."
He is thankful to the entire team of health professionals for the incredible care he's received: "If it weren't for you helping me along this path I would not be back to my old self, out here now," he says.
"This is a gift for which I am forever grateful, and one that I shall not squander. Who knows what the future holds, but it now holds endless possibilities. "I'm living, walking proof of the great importance of organ donation and its success."