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A Glimpse Into My Past

A Glimpse Into My Past
by David Adomako-Ansah

From the start of 2006, all the way up until the middle of 2009, I have been faced with situations unbearable. I’ve come to realize that too many times in life; people are faced with hardships and tough decisions to make. The road to success is never smooth, especially with all the obstacles we must encounter to succeed. I faced my first obstacle in April of 2006. I woke up one day just feeling more tired than usual. I had some rashes on my face and I didn’t have enough energy to walk up the stairs. My parents took me to the U of A hospital, and after tons and tons of tests, I was diagnosed with Lupus. I went home that day and kept asking God, “Why Me?” like I was to remain invincible for the rest of my life. It wasn’t as bad as I first thought. I had to take a whole bunch of meds at certain times, and get blood work every week. My sisters had to deal with my mood swings, like I had menopause or something, so I thank them for that.

In November, just when I was getting comfortable, I faced my second obstacle. It was the 7th, and I had a physics test the next day, which was an obstacle in itself. My dad had dropped me off at around 6 so I could get some tutoring. When I went to sit down, I started feeling funny, suddenly, I couldn’t talk. I literally couldn’t speak. Things were getting fuzzy; I started falling out of my chair, etc. An ambulance came for me, and sent me to the University Hospital. The nurses there were asking me numerous questions, trying to get me to start speaking out, but there was nothing coming out of me, nothing was happening. I was given a paper and pen, and I couldn’t write either. My parents arrived and I started crying. I had no idea what was going on. I fell asleep for a couple hours, and when I woke up, it was like nothing had happened. I just had that same tired feeling I had in April. I spent two weeks on the Adult ward, and they had told me that I had had three blots shoot up to the left side of my brain, and that I had had some strokes in that time. I came to the conclusion that physics kills you.

That Christmas, I spent time praying, and being thankful that I was still alive and still moving, despite the events of the past year. I was thankful that I was able to get through a tough year. I prayed for a different outcome for the next year, and I definitely got it. After I got owned in my physics midterm, there were times in the day where I could feel my heart beating too fast, or sometimes not at all. Once again, it was tough for me to move up a flight of stairs. I had to take the elevator to get to my classes. No elevator, no wheelchair, just me and my backpack, and a chick or two. On the 16th, my dad came to the school to pick me up, because yet again, my lupus started acting up and I had to spend another two weeks up on the 5th floor, and a lot of my elderly homies from last time were still there.

Like I did at Christmas, I spent time reflecting on what exactly helped get me to where I was. I had support from my family, coming in every night. I had support from my friends, coming in after school, filling me in on what was going on. I had the teachers coming as well. None of them brought any assignments, so that was a bonus. All I needed now was the medical staff. My mistake there was thinking that they had all the answers to my illness, forgetting that they were human as well. Some of them had no idea what was going on with me. One day I’m good, next day I’m not. Maybe it was just a setback, those happen right? On March 3rd I went home feeling a bit safe. Things happen and I just had to try my best to stay healthy and active.

My body wasn’t agreeing with my thoughts. I spent five days living on my couch. I was drained. No energy to walk, to sleep, to eat, even to breathe. My family were weighting on me hand and foot. When we called the doctors, we were told that there was a bug going around, and I should take some Tylenol. By day five, I had had enough and we headed down to emergency. If it weren’t for the constant assistance from my twin sister Sarah, and little sister Samantha, I don’t know if I would have made it on that last day. It was around 12:30, and once again I couldn’t breathe. My sisters noticed it, and packed a bag for me filled with stuff I would need for the hospital. We waited in emergency for a good 6 and half hours, until I was attended to. They say in that time, I was again withering away. It took a few days for them to decide that I was going to need a defibrillator/pacemaker implanted. I don’t remember much about getting implanted, the most I remember is the pain that I went through afterwards. The pacemaker they had given me wasn’t working, and I had to go into surgery. It was a Sunday, and I met this German doctor named Holger. I couldn’t remember his name, so I always sang the Foldger’s jingle, since they rhymed.

The next month is pretty much a blur to me. I was told that I was given my Berlin Heart on April 16th. The closet thing I remember is that day they held a mirror up to my face so I could see how I looked, and I had lost about 20 pounds. The next six weeks lead to a lot of complications. I guess the Lupus had hit my lungs, because I had to get a track implanted in my neck so that I was able to breathe. My lungs had collapsed; I was put on tube feeds, because I wasn’t able to eat. Every time there was a complication, they had to stop my tube feeds and that just added to the depleting. Ina couple of weeks, I had dropped all the way to about 32 kilograms. There was a couple times were my lungs were bleeding, like on May 30th, when I almost passed away. Lucky for me, my doctor was always there when I needed him, coming in at 3 in the morning to deal with my complications. I had lost the ability to do things as snap my finger, walk, talk, sing, write, and smile. Things started getting better after the previous Berlin Heart patient came to visit me and tell me about her experience. It was nice having her come. It was nice knowing that there was someone that actually knew what I was going through. Everyone could feel as sorry as they wanted, but they just didn’t know. Another turning point was when I had my family and closest friends hold a small graduation for me in my room. It was the first time any of them had seen me since March. Some of them even came in suits, it was amazing. My eighteenth birthday, the whole graduating class attended. It was special. I realized that, there are all these people fighting for me, so I have to fight just as hard.

Obviously during this time, I had many thoughts of just, giving up. I didn’t think I would ever get back to the same, loud, crazy, sweet, passionate, loving, caring, affectionate guy you all knew and loved. I thought that I was too far down to be able to get back up. I think the only thing that kept me going was the fact knowing, that I wasn’t alone. Every day, my sisters would come in and tell me that these people are praying for me, and those people said hi, and that their thinking about me, and that all these people know that I’m gunna get through this. My sisters would come in and read me a “get well” note that a friend had written for me during a class…spare. Every day I was told by the nurses, doctors, friends and everybody else telling me, “Oh David, you’re so strong; I don’t know how you could get through this. I know that I couldn’t”. I didn’t believe that for a second. If you were to ask me if I could handle a situation like this before I was diagnosed with Lupus, I would’ve told you the exact same answer I was getting; NO. I believe that it’s not until you’re faced with such a challenge that you eventually say to yourself, I’m gunna fight this, and then you just find a way to do just that.

On December 21st of 2007 I was discharged! That day I became the first person outside of Europe to go home on a Berlin Heart. It wasn’t a tough transition back home, but more of a weird adjustment. I had to learn how to take my meds independently because there were no more nurses around. I got to sleep in now that there was no doctor opening my blinds in the morning. That being said, I had to learn to wake up on time to take my meds. I also had to learn to take it easy. I was never one to just sit around and do nothing, so the past few years have been difficult. On my time on the Berlin, I kept busy by doing some public speaking on the U of A campus, schools in the city, charitable organizations and in the U of A Hospital. My big project that I decided to tackle was my own non-profit organization I started in 2008 called the Dunk On Disease Foundation, geared to raising money for the Stollery. There were quite a few challenges on the Berlin. I had gotten used to the constant clicking, if you didn’t, you’d go crazy. It was more when my pump would beep and set off an alarm. When my blood pressure would rise, or if there was a kink in the tube, there would be a loud, annoying beep. It always seemed to beep at the wrong times, like when I would run to catch a bus, or when an attractive young lady looked my way. The driver itself weighed over 20 pounds, so it was tough lugging it around up and down flights of stairs. Physiotherapy kept me both healthy and entertained. I don’t believe there was ever a day when I didn’t have a huge posse attending. Being in the public eye wasn’t always thrilling either. One evening, I went to see a movie with my sister and some friends. There was a lady sitting in front of me, which was fine. There was a scene where things sort of got quiet, making my clicking more audible. This lady whipped around and said very rudely, “Can you STOP that?!”. I was taken aback because that was the first time someone had told me to hush while on my Berlin. I just smiled calmly and said, “Actually ma’am, this is my mechanical heart. If I do ‘stop it’, things could get messy.” She then looked at my Berlin and must’ve recognized me from somewhere and her eyes just ballooned. She quickly turned around and at the end of the movie she bolted out of the theatre.

The only real problem was my lupus. It seemed nothing was working really, until my then lupus doctor, Dr. Ellsworth suggested a drug called cyclophosphamide that would be given through an IV. It’s commonly used for chemotherapy and for lupus patients. I came in once a month for a 24-hour treatment. After the first two months I started noticing a difference. I wasn’t having as many lupus flare ups. We did this for a year, originally hoping to wean me off the Berlin without having a transplant. By this point, my heart was too far gone for saving. But my lupus was under contol, eliminating the chance of it attacking any other organs. On December 27th, I received a call from Celine the transplant co-coordinator. I was relisted for a heart transplant! I immediately grabbed a duffle bag and packed clothing to last for about four days. I didn’t want to be rushing when I actually got the call. During my wait, I tried not to think about getting the call, but that was impossible. One thing I found very therapeutic during the last three years was writing. I was a contributor to my high school newspaper, and really enjoyed it. I was able to pour whatever I wanted on a page without being judged.

I did that all the way up until February 22nd, 2009 when I was woken up by my dad at six in the morning yelling, “David…the hospital called…they have a heart for ready…” I immediately shot up out of my bed, more awake than I’ve ever been. Those who know me know how much I love my sleep, so having me actually get up to get the operation deserves a pat on the back. I had a 2009 calendar filled with quotes from the TV show The Office. I looked at the date and the first line on the quote-of-the-day read, “I can’t do this…” I sat there and thought about what has happened to me and everyone around me in the last few years and said, “Yes…I can.” When you get a call as important as this, there are too many emotions running through your mind to pin-point just one. “What if this is just a dry run? This was the first call, but then again…it could be the actual thing…I’m relieved to be starting a new chapter…but it could end…” I met my mom, and she came in the room crying. We sat and prayed and prayed and prayed. I was the one reassuring her things were going to be alright. It was just my mom and my dad that knew, because the girls and my brother were sleeping, so I sent my sisters a text message….yes, a text message.

When I came in, I was admitted on the 4th floor. Holger came in and said, “My one vacation day in the year, and you have to have a transplant.” So I shot back with, “Oh, I’m sorry that my life inconveiences you Holgy.” The next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher wearing one of those stylish surgical caps, awaiting my next big life altering experience.

The surgery was successful! There were a couple of things like helusionations…but we won’t get into those. Since the transplant, my outlook on life has changed even from when I was on the Berlin. It really is like night-and-day. I’m free to do all the things I used to and more. I’m free to be David again. I will forever be grateful to God, my Mom & Dad, my siblings, the Donor family my friends, all of my nurses, doctors & medical staff, the Child Life Program, the Edmonton Eskimos & Edmonton Oil Kings for visiting me personally whenever I was admitted and all the total strangers who would come up and tell me they were rooting for me. In a way, it’s like I’m always giving an acceptance speech because now I can finally accept and appreciate life for what it is.

The advice I give to the people I encounter nowadays is that before something like this ever happens to you or somebody you know, go out and give everything you do 100% effort. Don’t worry about what others say, just give everything you’re all, because you just never know. I think that in situations like mine, and with every successful journey, you need the support of the people close to you in order for you to start believing in yourself.

Thank you for your time. Take Care, Much Love & God Bless

David had quite the journey before coming to the Television program at NAIT. While in his last year at Archbishop MacDonald High School in Edmonton, he was diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disease and went into cardiomyopathy. David spent almost two years on a Berlin Heart Excor Device and eventually got a Heart Transplant in February of 2009.

David has always wanted to be a journalist, whether it is in print or on-air. Going through those many life changing experiences, David is hoping to use these to his advantage and become a medical reporter.

David gives back to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the hospital that saved his life, with his non-profit organization The Dunk On Disease Foundation. So far, the DOD Foundation has raised over $9,500, something David is really proud of.

In his spare time, David likes social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, catching movies with friends, playing basketball and above all spending time with his family. David is also a sports fan. When he can, he’ll try and catch a Vancouver Canucks game on TV.

His favourite players are Henrik Sedin, fellow twin and captain of the Canucks and Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, someone who has also gone through hardships in life and concurred them. Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon of CNN are two of David’s favourite anchors. David hopes to one day be like his broadcasting idol, Lloyd Robertson.