Heart transplant

How a heart transplant gave this Ontarian a taste of a second chance at life

Tyler Montgomery of Port Franks, Ont., is wasting no time making the most of the gift of a second chance at life, a year after undergoing a life-saving heart transplant.

Montgomery, 33, ran the family’s construction and renovation business and always maintained an active lifestyle, but that all quickly came to a halt. At 31, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure due to a leaky valve.

It was a major shock.

“I thought I had burst a rib and walked into the hospital thinking I was going to have an x-ray, but I had no idea it was going to turn into all of this very quickly,” he said. declared.

“Once I found out I needed a transplant, it was so scary because these are things I was seeing on TV, and now I was about to experience it.”

Within days, a matching organ donor was found for Montgomery and he underwent successful surgery at Toronto General Hospital. A few weeks later, he was transferred to London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) for follow-up care.

Montgomery got down on one knee to propose to girlfriend Keverly at the Stiller Blackburn Multi-Organ Transplant Unit at London Health Sciences Centre. He received follow-up care at LHSC a few weeks after his transplant in Toronto. (Submitted by London Health Sciences Centre)

Last week, to mark the anniversary of his transplant, he first underwent a routine biopsy at LHSC. Then he got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Keverly.

He said the LHSC was of particular importance to him.

“What better place to offer to give my heart than the place that takes care of my heart?” he said. “As corny as it is, it’s special. Anyone can propose on a beach, but not many people can propose in the transplant unit.”

WATCH | Heart transplant recipient Tyler Montgomery pops the question to girlfriend Keverly at London Hospital:

Marriage proposal at London Hospital

On the first anniversary of his heart transplant, Tyler Montgomery wanted to mark the occasion by proposing to his girlfriend Keverly at the London Health Science Centre.

Montgomery underwent the transplant surgery at a time when hospitals were under pandemic restrictions, which prevented family and friends from visiting him in person.

But he didn’t let that break his spirits.

“I had my moments of disbelief, that this can’t be real, but I also had my moments of, ‘What can I do to have the best result, what can I do to beat this. ‘ I don’t want to give up,” he said.

Even in the hospital, he was eager to be “active”

Before the transplant, Montgomery said he used to underestimate himself when it came to achieving his goals and getting what he wanted out of his life.

The transplant and his recovery changed his outlook, he said.

Montgomery said he was so eager to get back on his feet that 28 hours after his surgery he was walking around the intensive care unit, prompting his health care team to install a treadmill in his room.

“It was good luck for any nurse who had me,” he said. “I was now fixed, so I will walk and be active.”

LHSC transplant coordinator Grant Fisher said leaky valves can often go unnoticed for years in youngsters like Montgomery, but in his specific case, heart failure caught up with him much earlier.

Grant Fisher, transplant coordinator at LHSC, says organ donors are the reason people like Montgomery are given new life. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

In Ontario, wait times for heart transplants can range from a few months to a year, Fisher said. He said Montgomery’s milestone would not have been possible without a donor.

“I always have to stop and thank everyone who signs their donor card. Without the people who give the gift of life, none of the people would have these milestones like Tyler is proposing,” he said.

Montgomery said creating a routine while in the hospital was helpful.

“Every morning I would wake up, drink whatever I could because I was water restricted, then go for a walk, come back and have my vitals taken, and listen to motivational podcasts. stuff that would keep my mind racing and clear.

Montgomery and his fiancée are thrilled to begin a new chapter in their lives, made possible by their donor. He also plans to reopen his family business once he regains some of his muscle.

The only message he wants to send is don’t stress about the little things, take risks and live life.

“I learned the hard way how fragile life and time are, so the cup is always half full, never empty, no matter what life throws at me, because if I can overcome what I been through, it just shows what my future will hold.”