Being born with a heart defect, I was used to doctor’s offices, but nothing could have prepared me or my family when, at 44 years old, we were told that I needed a heart and liver transplant pronto.
We were not alone in receiving this frightening news.
Take a look at Aimee’s Youtube interview here!
Right now, more than 103,00 people are waiting for an organ to become available and, from January 2023 to October 2023, 38,761 transplants have been performed, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing.
My memoir, Contains Recycled Parts: My Triple Organ Transplant Journey and the Science of Gratitude, is about this journey of transplantation and the subsequent 11 months I spent in the hospital post-operation. Yes, 11 months! Crazy! Was it terrible? Yes! Would I do it again? Also, yes!
In my book, I take you from when the doctors first discovered my defect when I was one month old, through my physically-limited, but relatively normal childhood, to my Fontan surgery at 22 years old, to going into heart failure and being Medivacked from Texas to Stanford University hospital, to my ground-breaking heart and liver transplant, to all the way up to discharge day, and beyond.
Despite my purple lips and fingers caused by my defect, I led a pretty normal childhood; I ran around at recess and rode the rollercoasters. Every annual checkup ended the same way: she’s doing well, let’s continue to monitor her.
Finally, after college, the doctors and I agreed the time was right to do something. That something was called a Fontan procedure; this would work for the next 22 years. Until it didn’t. Within a matter of months, I went from attending yoga classes multiple times a week to not being able to walk my dog. I was in heart and liver failure.
After being admitted to the hospital, the surgeon who had done my Fontan procedure told me: “Aimee, you need a transplant.”
It was a word I had not even considered before. The doctors at Stanford told my surgeon: “Get her out here; we can help her.”
Days later, my mother and sister-in-law are packing up my apartment as I am being flown out to Stanford.
On December 13th, 2019, I received my transplant; I ended up staying in the hospital until August of 2020. It was a long, brutal recovery with countless tests, procedures, blood draws. But through it all, my new organs were working perfectly. So would I do it all again, knowing what I know now? One hundred percent.
Organ donation is more than just checking that box when getting your driver’s license. It is a second chance at life for multiple recipients. It is a gift my family and I take very seriously. If you would like to learn more about organ donation, check out the United Network for Organ Sharing at unos.org.
As I say in the book, “In truth, I don’t think of the heart as mine. It’s not mine. It is on permanent loan from a selfless soul I desperately wish I could thank in person. Her recycled parts have allowed me, and my family, a second chance. There is not a day when I don’t think about my donor and wonder about her. The only thing I can do now is live with purpose.”
I hope the book makes you laugh; it made my mother cry. It is my humorous testament about coming as close to death as one can, and fighting my way back from incredible physical trauma. I hope it is inspiring and informative. Most of all, I hope it makes you think about organ donation and the life-saving and life-changing impact it has on an entire family. My organ donors didn’t just save me, they saved my family and friends, as well.
As I continue to advocate for organ donation, I will continue my journey as an educator and writer. I welcome any opportunities to speak about my book and the life-saving role of organ donation.
You can find me at aimeemackovic.com, at Aimee Mackovic on FB, and @aimeemackovic on Instagram.