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Transplant Hero: Annemarie, Clinical Nurse Specialist

There are a lot of people involved in the organ donation and transplant process in our province. From doctors and nurses, to dieticians and pharmacists—each and every one of them play a vital role in helping people in BC get a second chance at life.
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Annemarie Kaan, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in our Heart Failure and Transplantation team is one of those heroes.

What do you do? 

I work with teams looking after patients with chronic heart failure; patients who are placed on mechanical heart assist devices, and pre-and-post heart transplant patients. My role includes four pillars:

  • Program development. As new devices and procedures become available, I work with teams to plan how to introduce them to our patients in a safe and timely way.
  • Education. I teach students—both clinical and university students—about how we manage patients with heart failure and heart transplant. I teach both in the university setting and in the clinical setting.
  • Research. I’m involved in multiple research initiatives ranging from helping nurses learn how to do research, performing my own research, working with our physicians on different projects and being a member of  our Hospital’s Research Ethics Board
  • Clinical care. When someone’s admitted to hospital and has multiple teams caring for them, I work to make sure they’re receiving the best possible care, that their questions are answered, and help prepare care plans.  

How long have you worked in organ donation/transplant?

I’ve worked in heart transplantation area since 1987.  I started my transplant career in Sydney, Australia, as a nurse in the heart and lung transplant program.  One of our first heart transplant patients was transplanted in 1984 at the age of 14—and she’s still alive and well at the age of 47.

I moved to Vancouver in 2001 to take on this role and work with the team to start our ventricular assist device (VAD) program, which is a mechanical device that helps some people waiting for heart transplants to survive until we find them a new heart.

What made you want to work in this field?

Working in heart transplant is such a privilege and we see people on both ends of the spectrum. 

On one end, we see people who are so desperately sick. Although some of them don’t make it, I think we’ve come a long way in providing support to these patients at the end of their lives. On the other, transplant candidates who get put on the waitlist in hopes of getting a new heart. 

As the old saying goes, “it takes a village” to get these people through, but I love the sense of achievement that we all feel when we send someone home 10 days after their transplant—completely transformed. The reality behind the tragedy that causes someone to become an organ donor is bitter-sweet though, and is always there for us, our patients, and families.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? What’s most rewarding?

What I enjoy the most is working with patients and their families. Helping them through what can sometimes be a very difficult journey is by far the most rewarding part of my job. 

I also really cherish working with such an amazing group of people. From the team at BC Transplant who are so very expert at what they do to my colleagues here in the Heart Centre. I learn something new from them every day. Bottom line—Vancouver’s Heart Transplant Program is world-class and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Share your story

Do you know a transplant hero? We want to hear from you! Share your stories on social media using the hashtag #TransplantHero or submit them here for a chance to be featured on our website.
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