But after a month of lingering symptoms, she learned she had contracted a rare flu-like virus and was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy – an enlargement of the heart muscle.
“I remember I sat down and this doctor was looking at my feet and stuff and I was like, yeah, that’s the time I went too far and told him too much was wrong. not with me. And he said, ‘Well, actually, I think you have heart failure and I think you need to go to intensive care’.”
In April 1997, after being seen by a specialist, who took into account her young age and good health, she was sent home for six weeks to see if her heart would heal.
“Here’s this cardiologist leaning over me saying, ‘Yeah, I don’t know how to tell you this…’ And I think, it’s kind of a random dream.”
She was told that if her heart couldn’t heal itself within six weeks, she would need a heart transplant.
When she returned to the hospital, her condition had deteriorated.
“I remember the doctor saying to me, ‘We don’t usually offer transplants to people who won’t live more than a year’. And that’s actually a really big thing to swallow at 23. It is enormous. “
She said her Christian faith helped her cope with the surgery and she knew she might not survive.
“I guess having really strong faith and waking up in heaven. Yeah, that [wouldn’t be] all bad. I would have felt bad leaving everyone behind, but I thought I was winning. Yeah, I still do, I guess a little bit.
“That’s been a huge, huge part of how I handled it all.”
Ms Bungard became one of the first people in New Zealand to have a heart transplant – but despite the success of the operation, she was told she may only have five to ten years to live.
“The transplant patients back then were often older and they were often gentlemen, and they offered you five years, or three to five years…And that was just enough for you to see your grandchildren grow a little more.”
Defying the odds (and the predictions of several medical professionals), Ms Bungard is now celebrating 25 years since the transplant – she is also the second heart transplant recipient to give birth, going through a monitored pregnancy and giving birth by Caesarean section in Ruben , now 20, and Katie, now 16, three years later.
“I think even having kids is a miracle. An absolute miracle. And even now, when I look at them, I still think it’s…we’re just living a day-to-day miracle. It’s incredible.”
Ms Bungard said celebrating 25 years of transplant in the same year as her 48th birthday was not something she took lightly and lived every day with an extra spring in her step.
“I think sometimes people say, ‘Oh, it’s just another birthday.’ I’m like, ‘You have no idea.’ The idea that I could live to see my 50th birthday, that didn’t even cross my mind. I remember when the church celebrated my 30th birthday and we all stood there and said, “Wow, imagine you didn’t think you could turn 30.”
By Ben Tomset