Doing good while waiting for a heart transplant
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Éric Cool suffered a nearly fatal heart attack which upended his life. After undergoing emergency heart surgery, he is now closely monitored and waiting for a heart transplant. How does he quell his anxiety and focus on the positive? By launching a fundraising campaign with the help of his children and friends in support of the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation.
A story of a man who prefers to see the positive in life, no matter what it has in store for him.
An unforeseen event, a major tipping point
In 2019, this high school principal was living a healthy, ordinary life. He was in good physical shape, he didn’t smoke, rarely drank, and ate well. “I had maybe 20 pounds of extra weight, but that’s it.” One night in July he began to vomit excessively. “My sons were worried, so we called an ambulance. At the hospital they told me I was suffering from a major heart attack, that they had to send me to the Montreal Heart Institute and that I might not make it.”
After a triple bypass, his condition was so uncertain that he was kept in a medically induced coma for two days. “The situation was hardest on my loved ones. When I woke up, I thought I had just come out of the operating room, but they had actually been worried for two days. They were really scared.”
In the intensive care unit, he learned that half of his heart no longer worked but that medication would allow him to recover. His body didn’t agree.
A heart transplant: when big problems require big solutions
Instead of improving as expected after surgery, Mr. Cool’s heart function continued to deteriorate to the point that he was told last February that he’d need a new heart. As a result, he stopped working, is now on forced rest, and is being closely monitored by the Institute where he is seen every week. He also has a pager which will notify him when the time comes to head to the Institute for the transplant. “It doesn’t feel that real right now because the medication I’m on relieves my symptoms and I feel good. I’ve got a lot of energy and I want to exercise but I know I shouldn’t take any risks. When I go play baseball with my sons – I can’t wait! – instead of throwing a hundred pitches, I’ll only throw ten.”
There’s no way of knowing if a heart will be available in one week or six months, so what can he do in the meantime? “I decided to turn my experience into something positive and productive. That’s why I started a fundraising campaign to support the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation.”
Tangible actions to help others
As an optimistic, resilient individual, Mr. Cool has remained in good spirits despite the difficult period he’s going through. Getting involved in our cause is a great way for him to stay in contact with loved ones, especially during this pandemic, who support him in this endeavour. “It’s also beneficial for my kids who are 18 and 21. We’re doing something positive and constructive rather than sitting around and waiting for the pager to beep.”
He launched an online fundraising campaign and if sanitary measures permit, several fundraising activities will take place in the next few months. Mölkky (a Finnish throwing game), volleyball, and other outdoor sports are scheduled for this summer while a fundraising dinner and silent auction will take place in the spring of 2022. The goal is to reach as many people as possible. “We obviously want to raise money, but my main goal is to raise awareness about organ donation. Becoming an organ donor is so important. »support Éric Cool's fundraiser
Donations of any amount are appreciated. Because behind every action, no matter how big or small, there is a person who is aware of Mr. Cool’s situation and how organ donation can save lives. “Students who I barely know have been sending donations and sending me encouraging emails. That’s extremely touching! Everyone who’s contacted me now knows how vital organ donation is, and that also pays off.”
Tailored support provided by the Foundation
Mr. Cool is quick to praise the Foundation’s team. “Every time I contact them with a new idea for an activity, I get the guidance and support I need to help me achieve my goals. They always answer my questions quickly and I’m sure the same goes for everyone else, no matter how much money is raised.”
Donating to the change the lives of patients
The Montreal Heart Institute Foundation contributes to research, raises awareness, and supports prevention for cardiovascular disease. “That’s what saved my life when I had a heart attack. That’s why I’m still here today. I know that over the next few years, I’ll need research to have made progress so I’m also doing this for my own sake!” says the man who stands out thanks to his immense generosity.
The medical advances made possible by the Foundation have a direct impact on the Institute’s patients like Mr. Cool. For instance, if a compatible heart does not become available and that his body no longer tolerates the medication, an artificial heart could be an option as he waits for his transplant. This solution would have been impossible not that long ago.
A dedicated team and outstanding care
This cutting-edge science also ensures peace of mind for the Montreal Heart Institute’s patients. “It’s a world-renowned institution, one that is a source of pride for Quebec. It’s an incredible place!” Mr. Cool is especially impressed by the staff’s teamwork. “I don’t always see the same doctor at my appointments, but they are all very familiar with their patients’ files and communicate with each other. Everyone has a role to play and does it very well.”
And the care goes beyond his heart. “They always check how my morale is and make sure I’m well surrounded. I’m lucky because I have loved ones who are very involved in my life but I’m sure that if ever that were to change, they’d find ways to help me out.” The availability of the staff, their humility, skills, and expert care have helped Mr. Cool overcome his anxiety in the face of his upcoming surgery. “I don’t meet only a doctor, a nurse, or an attendant, I meet genuine human beings. When it’s time for my surgery, I will have no control over what comes next, but knowing my life will be in the hands of these experts is quite reassuring.”
Turned to the future
How does he view the future? “With great confidence. Obviously, I’m a bit scared because recovery is always unpredictable. But I am 100% going to die if I don’t get a new heart in the short run, whereas the risks associated with the operation itself are low. The choice is easy to make.”
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