Imagine hearing the news that you require a heart transplant to live. Now imagine needing three heart transplants before you reach the sixth grade.
Newfoundland and Labrador resident Terry Gill, now 28, suffered from congenital heart failure as a child, and underwent his first transplant in 1996, at age six. Unfortunately, his body rejected the first heart, and he soon underwent a second transplant that same year.
The second transplant was a moderate success, but by 2002, Terry’s condition was back and he was forced to undergo his third heart transplant at the young age of 12.
“A lifelong struggle to say the least,” says Terry about his constant medical issues. “I have been in and out of hospitals since I was very young, and have been dealing with serious challenges.”
As if three heart transplants weren’t hard enough on his family, Terry explains that for every operation, he had to travel long distance to get the care he needed. “I was always travelling to SickKids Hospital in Toronto. When I was a kid I didn’t think much about it, but now that I’m an adult, I see the financial pressure this must have put on my parents.”
“We were managing the costs for a while, but with heart transplants, you have to return to the specialists for follow-up appointments,” explains Terry’s mom Louise. Leading up to Terry’s third heart transplant, Louise explains that the costs of travelling to and from Toronto became simply too much to handle, so she began looking for assistance.
“I was always travelling to SickKids Hospital in Toronto. When I was a kid I didn’t think much about it, but now that I’m an adult, I see the financial pressure this must have put on my parents.”
When Louise first contacted Hope Air, she learned that the charity would be able to arrange free flights for her and Terry to travel to Toronto, first for his assessment and then for what would be his third transplant.
“Hope Air has been such a blessing. The stress of a seriously ill child takes its toll on you as a parent, so having this financial burden lifted makes it that much easier to deal with the surgery. Flying to Toronto has been a big part of Terry’s life, it’s almost like he’s grown up with Hope Air helping along the way.”
Since his most recent heart transplant in 2002, Terry’s health has improved, and he no longer has congenital heart failure. He notes that there haven’t been any complications with his new heart. However, because it’s such a serious procedure, he is required to visit specialists in Toronto every year so they can monitor his progress. Originally going to SickKids, Terry now visits Toronto General Hospital to see his specialists.
“I have to make the trip once a year, and doing so without Hope Air wouldn’t be possible. As a kid I didn’t think about the cost of travelling, but now as an adult, I can see how important the free flights are to my health. Who knows where I’d be if it were not for Hope Air!”