"Thanks to your heart I have seen my son grow up"

13 Apr 2021Updated: 4 hours ago | 52 people are reading

© iStock

In this weekly section, readers write a letter to someone who has played an important role in their life, positive or negative. This time Carolien (51). She writes a letter to the donor from whom she received a heart that saved her life.

Dear donor,

When I was 13 years old, the korfball medical doctor discovered a heart noise with me. Nothing alarming, so many children have, but just to be sure, I had to visit the doctor. He also heard a wrap in my heart. Just to the cardiologist for certainty. In the hospital I appeared to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, caused by a gene defect. That means that your heart muscle is thickened and stiff and your room is too small, so your heart has too little pumping power. Suddenly I was not allowed to exercise anymore. My world collapsed. Why not, I thought, I have absolutely no problems at all!

In the following years I noticed that I was getting worse. If I had been out for a night out with friends, I would not just have a hangover, but would be out the next day. Still could live with it. That changed after my son gave birth. A few weeks later, I had serious cardiac arrhythmias and had to be admitted to the hospital. From that moment on my health deteriorated sharply.

I was always tired or not feeling well, could barely take care of my child or even go shopping. Staring out a bit, I could not do more. I received a mobility scooter and a stairlift to be somewhat mobile. I should have given up my work, it was really survival in those years.

"On the waiting list? I had promised my child to go to Disneyland, that heart could wait. Total ostrich policy from me '

The tipping point came when I was admitted to the hospital and told that I had to be on the waiting list for a donor heart. Wait a minute, I thought, nothing will come of it. I had promised my child to go to Disneyland, that heart could wait. Total ostrich policy from me. The doctor pressed my nose hard at the facts. I was not allowed to go abroad, every day that they would put me on the waiting list later could mean that my heart would be late. That came in really hard. Then I realized it was serious.

You don't know how long you have to wait for such a heart. I was only told that you will be on that waiting list if you have about a year to live. For months I never lost sight of my phone. Every moment I could be called that a suitable donor heart had been found for me, and then I had to be in the hospital within two hours. During that time I felt worse and worse. I couldn't go on anymore. I felt the end approaching. After nine months the redeeming phone call came; on the home telephone. I am still convinced that it should not have taken a week longer.

"When I woke up and felt a fast, regular heartbeat, I thought it was scary. I didn't know that '

We went to the hospital on autopilot. Carry along, call a taxi, the decisive moment. As a recipient you hear almost nothing about the donor. But one thing I felt very strongly: I didn't want it to be someone who left young children behind. Because I panicked so much, the doctors assured me that this was not the case.

In the hospital you realize that it can go two ways. A heart transplant is of course not without risk. It could very well be that it was the last time that we were all together and that I would never see my son again. I said goodbye. Fortunately the operation went well. When I woke up and felt a fast, regular heartbeat, I thought it was scary. I didn't know that.

It took about a year before it felt like my heart. It was a gift, a huge gift. Your heart has brought me so much, it is hard to express in words. I was able to bring my child back to school by bike, do my own shopping. My scooter was picked up within six months. The stairlift did not follow much later.

"If you had not been there, that boy would not have had a mother when he was 7"

I went badminton, I participated in the European Games for heart and lung transplants and won medals there. I also won medals at the World Games for organ transplants. But even more important: I have seen my child grow up. He is now 23 and received his HBO diploma last week. I would never have experienced that without you, my organ donor. If you had not been there, that boy would not have had a mother when he was seven. The gratitude I feel is so great.

People sometimes ask me: have you changed because of your donor heart? No, I think I've changed because of what I've been through. I have become much easier. I owe a lot to you in that. I was a luxury cat with a nice house, nice cars and a good job. And although my marriage broke down and I now live in a rented house, I am very happy. I went through such a deep valley, but thanks to you I still live. I am so proud that you have made the decision to donate your organs. What you have meant to me is insane. Because you have seen my son grow up. I wish you could see how you live in me. You gave me a second chance. For that I am eternally grateful.

Carolien

Briefgeheim is a weekly section of RTL Nieuws Weekend. Here, readers (anonymous) write an open letter to someone who has been of great significance in their lives, positive or negative. Would you also like to write a letter together with one of our editors? Mail us at weekendmagazine@rtl.nl.