Twenty years strong for Kellie

A woman stands in front of a window holding a piece of medical equipment.
After 13 months on a Left Ventricular Assist Device system, Bellevue resident Kellie Ward received a heart transplant in 2001.
July 29, 2019

Almost twenty years ago, Bellevue resident Kellie Ward received devastating news that changed her life.

At age of 24, seemingly healthy and with a baby on the way, Kellie was diagnosed with peri-partum cardiomyopathy – a condition caused by strain and pressure on the heart due to pregnancy.

She was told by her doctor that her only chance of survival was a heart transplant. What was supposed to be one of the happiest moments in her life had turned into a dark time for Kellie.

There is light to Kellie’s story, which she shared for DonateLife Week (28 July – 4 August) because due to the WA’s Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Service, Kellie is now enjoying a healthy life with her family.

“I was totally speechless when my doctor told me I had heart issues,” Kellie recalled.

“At first I didn’t cope. My husband and I had lost our first born son the year prior. We went from grieving the loss of our son to eagerly waiting for the arrival of our daughter; when we were suddenly faced with the situation of my diagnosis.”

Three months after giving birth Kellie’s heart began to fail and she was placed on a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) system – a mechanical pump – as a bridge to a heart transplant.

While waiting for a transplant, Kellie spent most of her time bedridden in hospital, losing quality time with her newborn daughter.

After 13 months and being considered for two transplants that weren’t suitable, Kellie finally received a suitable heart.

“Words can’t express how I felt or how I feel now. My transplant gave me a renewed and more fulfilled life. This generous gift walks within me and I owe my life to the donor and the family,” Kellie said.

Nurse Practitioner Clare Fazackerley with the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Service, now at Fiona Stanley Hospital, said Kellie’s story was a wonderful example the difference organ donation can make in people’s lives.

“Sadly, there is increasing number of patients with chronic organ failure and it is expected the demand for transplants will continue to grow,” Clare said.

“A single organ and tissue donor can save the lives of up to 10 people and significantly improve the quality of life for many more.”

More than 1,400 Australians are currently waitlisted for a transplant and a further 11,000 are on dialysis, many of whom would benefit from a kidney transplant.

Kellie wants her story to serve as a reminder to have conversations with your loved ones about organ and tissue donation.

“If you want to become an organ or tissue donor – you need to tell your family. It’s important to have these conversations so your wishes are fulfilled.”

Since June 2018, 148 patients had their lives changed at Fiona Stanley Hospital by through organ donations with:

  • 7 heart transplants
  • 20 lung transplants
  • 2 heart and lung transplant
  • 30 kidney transplants
  • 89 bone marrow transplants.

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