My name is Wade Christensen and I am a candidate, waiting for a heart transplant. I am one of 113,000 waiting for a lifesaving transplant across the country.
I had a very active life. I cycled and ran. I was a corporate pilot. All of that life disappeared when I started having life-threatening arrhythmias in my mid 20’s. I would be exercising and all of a sudden I would pass out. I was given a couple of different diagnoses at first. I had open-heart surgery to “fix” what the doctors thought was the cause of my arrhythmias. It ended up that while I did need that surgery to fix a congenital defect, it was not what was causing the arrhythmias I was plagued with. I was diagnosed in 1997 with ARVC and had an ICD implanted in my chest that would monitor my heart’s rhythm and deliver a shock to reset it if need be
ARVC is a genetic condition passed from one generation to the next. It leads to the death of heart muscle (myocytes) cells that are replaced with fatty and fibrous scar tissue. This causes lethal arrhythmias so common to those diagnosed with ARVC. Eventually, as in my case, the heart begins to enlarge and weaken so that it cannot pump blood effectively throughout the body. This is known as heart failure. In my case, heart failure has advanced to the stage where a transplant is needed.
This disease is very impactful as it limits any type of exercise which exacerbates the arrhythmias. With heart failure, you literally have no energy to do much of anything. My kids have grown up without me being able to do typical dad “things” with them like running, playing catch, and virtually anything outside. More importantly, I’ve passed the genetic mutation on to two of my three children. Now they must be tested annually and followed by cardiology to see if any changes are occurring in their hearts that would signal they are developing the disease. They are not able to engage in typical physical activities such as running, playing basketball or soccer, lifting weights, etc…
I’ve been waiting for a heart transplant for eleven months. The wait is stressful. Not knowing when, or if, the call will come for you. Every day it’s a thought in the back of your mind. You try to carry on like everything is normal and as it should be, but you know it’s not. It’s not possible to make any medium to long-range plans. You live in the moment every single day. I compare it to the movie, “Groundhog Day”, that Bill Murray starred in years ago.
Mostly, I’m afraid of not seeing my children grow into adulthood. I don’t want to miss their big moments: Graduation from college, their first “real” jobs, marriages and grandchildren!
It’s almost too difficult to quantify the changes following my transplant. I’ve lived more than half my life with this disease. It’s robbed me of a “normal life”. I’m hopeful that a transplant would allow me to feel normal for the first time in almost thirty years! I really would like to be able to RUN again! I’ve dreamt about it!
If I am one of the lucky ones, I plan to attend as many of my children’s events as I can. I plan to travel when well enough. I plan to celebrate mightily with my family!