MEDFORD, Oregon – More than a year after experiencing a health roller coaster that could easily have cost her her life, Vanessa Trotter, 31, is back in Medford with her partner and brings with her a new perspective, full of gratitude and hope.
Trotter is no stranger to adversity. She grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and became a state ward at the age of 11 as her mother struggled with drug addiction and her father was serving time in jail. She and three of her younger siblings went through several foster homes and a children’s group home before settling in with a foster family three hours away in a rural town.
After graduating from high school, Trotter enrolled in community college – working as a student ambassador at the school, becoming a certified nursing assistant, and cleaning homes.
“I had it pretty well,” Trotter explained. “My foster parents cared about me and they kept in touch after I left home. I felt like I could do this. College was a good time. I have met a lot of people – including my partner, Michael [Maxson]. “
After Trotter graduated with an Associate of Science degree in 2014, she and Maxson joined several members of her family to move across the country to Medford. Trotter got a job with a health insurance company and worked his way up to an administrative position.
Things took a turn in the summer of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. Trotter easily found herself out of breath, but a Covid-19 test she took came back negative. Her primary care doctor prescribed an inhaler, who suspected she had asthma. But Trotter’s condition continued to worsen until she coughed up blood.
In September of the same year, Trotter went to the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for treatment. A second Covid test came back negative. Then, at the age of 30, he was diagnosed with heart failure. Imaging showed several blood clots in his heart and lungs. A cardiologist broke the news that his only option was to have a heart transplant.
“I was just devastated,” Trotter said of her diagnosis. “It didn’t make sense to me. I did not know what to do. I thought ‘I’m going to die.’ I was so scared. “
All things considered, Trotter’s timing was lucky. The Oregon Health & Science University Heart Transplant Program suddenly closed in 2018 after the loss of his team of cardiologists. But by 2020, the program had been resuscitated, performing its first successful heart transplant. end of March.
In November, Trotter was airlifted to OHSU where they began the assessment process and have done their best to treat her in the meantime. Yet she found herself faced with a grim reality, having to write a will and an advanced directive while receiving intensive care treatment.
Neither Trotter nor Maxson could work as she was receiving care in Portland, and only with the help of friends and family were they able to pay the bills and maintain her insurance to cover her care. and a possible transplant.
In late 2020 and early 2021, Trotter was traveling back and forth between Portland and Medford. Finally, in May 2021, she received some good news. When the call from OHSU came to him that there was a heart waiting for them, Trotter and Maxson drove all night from Medford to Portland. The five-hour operation itself was a success and she woke up on May 17 feeling immediately changed.
“I could tell my heart was different,” Trotter recalls. “I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I swear I could hear it with my own eyes. Boom! Boom! I wondered why it was so strong. The doctors told me that I was not used to having a working heart. To fall asleep, I ended up having to count as a distraction.
Trotter was not out of the woods yet. She had complications that affected her kidneys, forcing her to go on dialysis for a while. She also had to be hospitalized again for a while due to a bacterial infection probably made worse by the immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent her body from rejecting the new heart.
Finally, in mid-August, Trotter and Maxson were able to return home to Medford. She has not yet been able to return to work, although she does not want anything more. In the meantime, she is considering volunteering or continuing her education.
“My situation helps me understand that I can do more in life and that I don’t have to stay in a certain box,” Trotter said.
Growing up in a host family, Trotter learned to be independent and self-sufficient. But she says her journey over the past year has changed the way she sees things, teaching her that she can lean on others.
“We can all take help,” she said. “The world is not always there to have you. There are people who want to help you succeed.
Above all, Trotter is grateful – and hopeful. She has seen many times now that it is possible to come back from the brink of disaster.
“I just want people to know that there is hope and that they don’t accept your situation as fate,” she said.