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Bryson’s Story

Where do I start? I was a normal kid living a normal 18 year olds life when I met the girl of my dreams, Laura. Everything was great and I was working at a local craft/fabric store in Goleta, California. I started dating my girlfriend on July 14th in 2009 and it was awesome until October of 2009, when everything started going to down hill. I was sick 99% of the time with what felt like the stomach flu and no doctor could tell me what was wrong. I went to four different doctors over a month (numerous times) who had all told me I had stomach problems or something gastrointestinal. Some seemed to think I was psychotic or should be in a mental institution suprisingly. My parents thought the same and were actually angry with me for wanting to go to the hospital. After 2 months of feeling terrible and not even wanting to leave the house, I could no longer breath. I forced my Mother to take me to the emergency room and my girlfriend came too. The last thing I remember was sitting at a window and telling the lady I couldn’t breath. Within 24 hours they discovered my heart was enlarged thanks to an ER doctor and Dr. Bonometti, who did his residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which is the reason and only the reason I was able to be taken straight down to L.A., Dr Bonometti called the head of the Cardiac Institute, Dr. Czer, which in my opinion is the doctor who saved my life. They sent an ambulance to pick me up from Santa Barbara. I was in the SB hospital for about 5 days, which I remember hardly any of it because I was in cardiac shock the entire time. 10 days after, I woke up in the Cedars-Sinai cardiac ICU. The first thing I remember seeing was my girlfriend Laura and I was thinking, how bad my back and chest hurt. I vaguely remember the nurses doing their typical routine of asking me where I was and what day it was. To my astonishment and horror I was turned into a robot. They implanted me with this thing called an LVAD (Left Ventricle Assist Device). What it does is pump the left ventricle with electricity so ‘you’ don’t have too. It’s great and it saved my life and I wouldn’t be here without it, but it also SUCKS. There is a cord that comes from your heart outside your stomach that connects to a Power Module or PM that needs to be plugged into a wall socket type thing or batteries. It was not fun and the part that came out of my stomach had to be cleaned every day for almost 2 years. Which is how long i had to deal with the stupid thing. In my first stay at Cedars when I got the LVAD i think is when I met Ava. At first, I thought “Here’s another person telling me I need a heart and how great it is.” Which is exactly what she told me. The cool thing about Ava was she came everyday. Seriously everyday. I hated everyone but my girlfriend because they drove me crazy, but Ava helped my Mom out quite a bit. Anyway, I talked to Ava and 100 other people about what I should do when my LVAD is gone or about how everything will be ok because look at them they are doing great. To be honest I didn’t care much because I felt that I was as messed up, as i could be. I was a GOD DAMN ROBOT! But, with time I learned to live with my robot parts and it was ok. I survived. As much as other people loved their LVADs I did not. The LVAD saved my life but it was a pain in my ass. Being 19 and a robot was not fun. I turned 19 in a coma and didn’t get rid of my LVAD until after I turned 21…think how fun of a 21st bday that was? I must admit it was pretty awesome because all my friends from Santa Cruz showed up out of nowhere at my parents house to hang out for my birthday.

After having the Lvad for 18 months I FINALLY got a heart transplant thanks to Jenna and Emily who are the transplant coordinaters at Cedars. Jenna actually is on the board of Ava’s Heart and is very nice. She answered 1000 of my questions whenever I felt the need to call. Getting the call for my heart was such a relief because I was so sick of the LVAD. The only bad thing was Jenna called me 10 minutes into the new THOR movie which I was really excited to see. It was around 1pm when I got the call and was at Cedars by 3ish. I didn’t actually go into surgery till 9:45ish which I thought was ridiculous because they told me the heart can only be outside of a human body for 6 hours at the longest. They also told me they were harvesting the heart in hospital but I didn’t get to see any open chest cavities when I was rolled in. But I got lots of good drugs on the way to the operating room. Now that I think about it was very weird. I saw a lot of family and the only person I really cared about at all was my girlfriend I wanted to make sure I told her, I loved her. I woke up about 10 hours later and was told it was a “complicated surgery.” My LVAD decided it wanted to weld itself to the inside of my ribs so it had to be cut off my ribcage which took 4 hours or something. DUMB. But the surgery went well besides that. I’ve yet to get my hands on the actual surgery notes but I did make a nurse read them to me before I left the hospital and when the heart went in the notes it said “perfect fit” so i guess waiting almost 2 years for a heart was ok. I also get to turn 21 again in 4 years HAHA! It took about a month to get to feeling normal-ish and about 3 months to get rid of the worst of the pain. From the 3 surgeries where my chest was cracked open I was left with bad back problems which is about the worst of my problems. Nothing an occasional painkiller can’t fix.

Post Transplant: First thoughts is WOW can’t believe I’m done with all this crap!!!!!! Aside from the few visits to the doctors I go to I’m finally a normal kid. Ever since having a brain surgery in 2005 (I know right?) my life has been up and down. I’ve recently started again to play Disc Golf which is exactly the same as regular golf just with a Golf Disc instead of a ball. I started slow and couldn’t do much but now I’m doing as much or more than my other friends my age. I will say without a doubt it is the best heart hard sport out there as its not very physically demanding but after 18 holes your guaranteed to have walked over a mile. Most doctors are really happy with a mile a day and playing disc golf I probably do 3 miles a day. If you read this and don’t play disc golf GO PLAY! It’s a perfect sport for anyone with heart problems fixed or not yet fixed it does nothing but help you. I am now almost 6 months out and can probly do more than you, who ever is reading this. So if you consider being an organ donor or getting an organ donor…don’t be a weenie and get it done. It’s for the best. I was one of the sickest kids there ever was and now I’m exceeding what anyone could of ever thought I could do with ease. It’s not a hard decision.

-Bryson


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