Watch: ‘From a living time-bomb to a living miracle’
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Watch: ‘From a living time-bomb to a living miracle’

Christine's heart was so weak that she could not even make her bed

When three years ago Christine Grixti received the call informing her she had been matched with a donor, her own weak heart nearly failed with excitement.

Her husband, Charles, who had already bid farewell to Christine in a similar episode just a month earlier, called an ambulance as he rushed home from work.

On their way to hospital, the couple was still coming to terms with the life-changing call they had just received.

Ms Grixti, who had been living with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia for 20 years, was praying to her late parents and the donor to help her make it alive to hospital.

Meanwhile, her husband was asking the ambulance nurse whether it was true that a matching heart was being made available.

For years, he had stood by Ms Grixti, backing her every move. However, he had never believed that his wife, who had been told she will not make it past the year, would find a matching heart.

The next few hours and weeks were quite challenging, with Ms Grixti requiring two litres of blood following the transplant procedure and being recovered in hospital for unrelated complications.

Her donor, Drew AbelaHer donor, Drew Abela

Ms Grixti, now 45, admitted she would relive those moments if she could, including the day she met with the family of 20-year-old donor, Drew Abela, whom she met through social media following a newspaper article.

Those days marked the shift from being a living time-bomb to a living miracle. Her second chance at life, made possible by the Abelas’ altruism, inspired her to encourage more people to become organ donors.

“The topic of inheritance after death is rather a sombre one but most of us leave a will ensuring that our possessions are passed on to those who survive us.

“Whoever we are and no matter what we own, we all have organs. Let’s make sure they too are inherited by those who survive us. Organ donation allows others to live a decent life,” she remarks.

Read: Drew Abela saved seven lives. His grieving relatives want it to lead to more

Before being given her new heart, Ms Grixti had to make several changes to her life.

She had to cut down her working hours, quit driving and travelling abroad and even simple tasks like making her bed.

She had been diagnosed with a rare heart disease at 20 and the loss of her father at 33 had an impact on her heart that saw her being inserted with an im-plantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Similar to a pacemaker, the ICD prevented sudden death as her heart was getting weaker.

Sadly, Ms Grixti underwent another “huge heartbreak” when her mother died suddenly four years later and, following an infection in the ICD’s leads, in 2013 she was told she needed a heart transplant.

Asked whether she was scared of such a delicate procedure, she said she knew she was in good medical hands and that her only alternative was death.

Second chance at life inspires her to encourage more people to become organ donors

Does she ever feel guilty that to get an organ someone else has to pass away?

“Always. I’m still battling that guilt,” Ms Grixti said.

“As a person who faced death twice in a month, I’m always encouraging people to live life to the fullest but I know I’m still alive because someone else passed away.

“However, Drew’s family tells me that living with the help of their son’s organ is a continuation of the young man’s life. He gave life to seven others.”

Be a hero, become a donor

In dealing with the tragic loss of their son, Drew Abela, his parents Sharon and Kenneth funnelled their energy into the Life after Drew campaign.

In collaboration with the Transplant Support Group Malta, the campaign is raising awareness about the need of organ donation, encouraging others to register as donors and calling for a support structure that guides surviving relatives through the process.

One can become a donor in minutes by either registering online using one’s e-ID details, sending the application form by e-mail, or by post.

Holders of the donor card still have to register.

More information on www.transplantsupport.org.mt or the Facebook page Transplant Support Group – Malta.

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