Hi! I’m Aisha. I am an opera singer, Star Wars trivia Champion, Calgary Flames fan, and heart transplant recipient. This is my story…

In January of 2009, tragedy struck our family I was rushed into hospital with terrible chest pain. After a series of nerve-racking tests and imaging, I was diagnosed with Takayasu Arteritis; a rare, systemic, inflammatory large-vessel vasculitis. The disease had attacked my aorta in my heart. After remaining in the intensive care unit in the Calgary Children’s Hospital for months, I had my first open heart surgery on April 13th2009. At the fragile age of 16, the surgeons replaced my aortic valve with an artificial one. Ultimately the surgery was a success.

For the next seven years, my family and I returned to normal life and we handled the highs and lows of my condition. But on August 17th,2016, we were once again struck by an emergency. During a routine imaging procedure of my heart, the doctors found that my previous surgery had fallen apart and my disease had returned with a vengeance. Once again, I was rushed into hospital for a series of testing and imaging. Less than 48 hours later, I underwent a 12-hour open heart surgery on August 19th.We witnessed a miracle that day and the surgery was a success however, recovery was difficult. Through the replacement of my aorta and extending arteries the surgeons unfortunately paralyzed half of my vocal chords. Now for most people this wouldn’t be a problem but I am a mezzo-soprano for Calgary Opera Chorus. Yeah, a singer with a busted cord. Who would have thought. Though I grieved the loss of my vocal cord I managed to have  a year and a half of more or less better health.

In January 2018 standing in my kitchen a rogue blood clot had broken from my old conduit stitches and I was fighting for my life once again. This time was the most dire, after a stent was placed and four angiograms were done I knew everything was different. My heart was in full failure and an L-Vad wire was not an option. I was dying and ECMO was looking more and more like a possibility. Transplant was our only hope. I received the call on March 20, 2018 and had my transplant surgery on the 21st. The transplant was a great success and the recovery was smooth.

And so here we are, it’s been 3 years since my transplant. this is the story that I want to share. A story of family, love, and resilience. Lots of tears and laughter – and many more years to come.