Samantha Robinson is an active young woman who is full of life. She is a PhD student in human genetics at McGill University who realized last September that everything can change in a heartbeat.
A first procedure at the age of 13 months
Samantha was born with aortic stenosis, a heart defect that occurs when the valve that allows blood to flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and the rest of the body is too narrow.
At only 13 months old, Samantha underwent a procedure called a heart catheterization by balloon valvuloplasty, a very complex procedure that dilates the valve with a balloon at the tip of a catheter. In fact, she was one of the youngest patients to undergo this procedure at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
After months of anxiety and apprehension prior to the procedure, her parents were thrilled when the catherization was deemed a success. They envisioned a future filled with hope and optimism for the toddler who had shown great resilience in the face of adversity.
A new health problem
After many years free of any significant health problems, Samantha began to experience worrisome symptoms last September. Even though she was only 26, she felt an extreme fatigue which prevented her from taking part in her usual activities. After consulting with her cardiologist, a series of medical tests revealed that her aortic valve was at fault and she needed to undergo surgery.
Back in the OR
A mechanical heart valve was first presented as an option. But it was far from ideal because it was a solution that involved anticoagulants for the rest of her life and numerous lifestyle restrictions.
That’s why her cardiologist recommended she see someone at the Montreal Heart Institute about the possibility of a Ross Procedure. That’s where she met Dr. Philippe Demers who suggested the Ross procedure, a surgery that involves replacing the aortic valve with the patient’s own pulmonary valve. This surgery would allow her to enjoy a better quality of life than what a mechanical aortic valve would have provided.
It was an option that appealed to the young patient who agreed to the procedure.
The urgency of finding a new heart
Unfortunately, complications occurred during the procedure and Samantha was placed on life support. A new heart was needed as quickly as possible and she was placed at the top of the heart transplant wait list. After two weeks the good news finally came: a new heart had been found.
But Samantha was suffering from pneumonia which posed quite the dilemma for her health care team. Since the pneumonia was responding to antibiotic treatment, the transplant team and surgeon Dr. Nancy Poirier decided to leave Samantha at the top of the list an perform the transplant once a match was found.
The road to recovery
Even though the surgery was a success, recovery for this kind of operation can be long and arduous. However, only two weeks after undergoing a heart transplant, Samantha was up and walking: an outstanding feat according to her doctors. Throughout her recovery, the young patient continued to astound her health care team with her strength, optimism, and quick progress.
Life is slowly returning to normal for Samantha. She now feels in better shape than ever and is ready to conquer any challenge. She now knows she can do anything.
A memorable, reassuring experience at the Institute
While the Institute’s staff was pleasantly surprised by the young woman’s perseverance, she herself was impressed by the quality of care she received from her team. From the attendants to the nurses and cardiologists, everyone took care of her like a daughter. Throughout the entire process, she and her parents really felt as if the teams were working day and night to provide her with a new heart and a new life. Members of the staff also called every day to check on her condition.
Saying thank you by raising funds
Today Samantha is full of life and hope. That’s why she wants to give back to the community who saved her life and give hope to every patient who will face difficult situations and recoveries. With her parents, she launched the Samantha Robinson 2.0 project, a fundraising campaign to support the Montreal Heart Institute and help it pursue its mission to allow more patients to get a second chance at a healthy life!support Samantha's project