Hello! My name is Brianna. I'm 38 years old, living in western North Carolina. I'm a recent recipient of a heart transplant, having spent more than a month in the hospital over the last two months, waiting for a heart match to become available.
I'm a daughter, a fiancé, a sister, and best friend. I'm also a full-time employee for a blogging service. Until the last year, I was making attempts at being a small business owner of Swoonish, a hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber venture, before I had to put a hold on my efforts due to my health deteriorating.
Before I get to where I'm at now, let me tell you how things started.
Five Years Ago
In December of 2013, I was diagnosed with heart failure due to an unknown infection that was triggered and damaged my heart. I was originally diagnosed with the left ventricle only able to pump through 15% of the blood that was taken in. That ejection fraction rate was able to be raised to 25% through medication and I maintained that level for nearly all of the past five years.
I was made to believe by previous doctors that I would likely maintain my heart failure at 25%, with perhaps slight improvement, via medication for the rest of my life.
That wasn't to be the case.
As of August 2018, my heart dropped to a functioning level of 10%, where I was then transferred from my local hospital to Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was there I learned I would require a special pump to be installed around my heart, with the idea that it would keep me alive and stable until a heart became available for transplant.
Upon learning that my blood type was AB+, however, which meant I was a universal recipient, the team of doctors and I decided that we would place me on an at-home IV and work towards transplant first. If I worsened before a heart became available, then the pump would be installed. A transplant would be ideal, as two open heart surgeries would be quite a lot to go through, but the wait time couldn't be predicted.
After a month of being home, I went into the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine check of my pulmonary pressures. It was found that my heart function had dropped again. I was immediately admitted into the hospital, where I was told I would be staying until a heart became available.
In the Hospital
There was little else to do in the hospital but wait. I was weak, exhausted from my heart function dropping so low. On top of that, I was sore due to not being able to move my neck with the Swan Ganz catheter being routed into a pulmonary artery, as seen in the above photo.
I spent my days in the hospital waiting for any word on a donor and possible heart match. Some time was spent visiting with friends and family who came to see me, and trying to make time pass quickly. I kept friends and family up to date on my condition and transplant status via Instagram and Facebook–anything to not have to think about what was coming, how long it would take, and how a transplant would affect both my full-time job and small business efforts.
It was on Instagram that I found unexpected support from the yarn-loving community I'm proud to be part of. Knitters, crocheters, weavers, and the like reached out to offer kind words, thoughts, and prayers. Previous heart transplant patients found me as well, and offered their experiences, cheerleading, and well wishes.
Please feel free to visit my Instagram account to read and witness my time at the hospital, as well as the support of those that made it a point to surround me with love, healing words, and offers of care packages and encouragement after my heart transplant surgery took place.
Where You Come In
As I mentioned, I am a full-time employee. The team I work for is amazing, and has rallied around me; I'm particularly blessed by having them in my life. I'm also fortunate that my employment grants me health insurance coverage that has taken care of the bulk of my medical bills–even if a mistake was made and I lapsed out of insurance coverage for almost two weeks. (That has since been corrected.)
Unfortunately, a high deductible and out-of-pocket expense has caused me to rack up considerable debt. I've had to max out credit cards, including my small business card, so that the bills I know of don't go into collections. I have no clue how many bills are to follow, as it seems new ones come in weekly, but I'm not counting those for now.
I've had to turn to short-term disability until doctors feel it's safe for me to return to work, and that affects regular day to day and monthly expenses (e.g. student loans, though I'm looking into whether that's something I can temporarily pause) as well.
The point of this Go Fund Me is to help pay off the medical bills I know of, and some of the accumulated debt. I particularly need to pay back what I accumulated against Swoonish so that when I can, I'll be able to afford to jump back into what I enjoy and want to build for my future.
What I Want to Do and What I Can Offer
I'm limited in what I can do right now. Recovery is a long road, even after the healing of my sternum and rehabilitation begins. I'll be at a high risk of rejection for at least a year, possibly longer, with a compromised immune system during that time.
What I'm capable of doing now is sharing my story, providing encouragement and support to others in their time of need, and treating myself with kindness by giving my body the time it needs to heal and become stronger than it has been these last five years.
I'd like to be able to offer you something in return, and perhaps in the future I'll be able to come back and do just that. At the time of this writing, I can only offer my thanks. Thank you for thinking of me, for your thoughts and prayers, and for sharing this page if you feel so inclined to do so.
In time, it's my hope to get back to doing the things I enjoy, like traveling, spending time with people important to me, and working on building a business with courage, tongue-in-cheek humor, and all of the hard work that will be required of me (that I'll actually be physically capable of performing in the future).
I've been left with a great amount of gratitude and humility from this experience. A new heart has granted me the possibility of more time with my family and friends (old and new), and that blows my mind. We're never guaranteed a long life, but this chance I have at more time with everyone, at more time to do and experience new things, is more than I could have realistically hoped for. I feel so fortunate and blessed.
With your support, be it via encouragement, donation, or simply sharing my story with others, I hope to have a very real chance to get out from beneath the debt of this experience so I can hit the ground running as soon as possible.
From this new heart of mine to yours, thank you.
- Josi Hannon Madera
- Sarah Hoffman
- Michelle Nilsen
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