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Beyond Perseverance: Amanda Saunders’ Story.

Amanda Saunders is the epitome of perseverance.

At the age of 21, Amanda was a student in university, thinking about her future in the field of psychology. But one day, everything changed.

“I started noticing some rather puzzling and debilitating symptoms. I could not walk more than five feet without needing to stop to catch my breath, I could not eat without getting violently ill, I was sleeping for 14-17 hours a day, and l was retaining fluid in my stomach and legs as my heart was no longer strong enough to get rid of it.”

The symptoms were frightening for the Newfoundland student, and she went to her local emergency department where she was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is an aggressive type of heart disease that causes to heart to enlarge, and eventually fail.

“A few short months later, I was in end-staged heart failure. I was in a complete state of shock. I never thought it was possible for someone my age to have their heart fail.”

Through testing, doctors were able to determine that Amanda’s Dilated Cardiomyopathy was caused by an extremely rare form of Muscular Dystrophy.

After attempting to implant a cardiac device, Amanda’s symptoms only continued to worsen. Shortly after, she was admitted to hospital and transferred to Ottawa for a heart transplant assessment.

“I was told that a transplant was the only way for me to survive if I ever dreamed of having a future,” she explains.

After a daunting and trying seven-week wait, Amanda received her heart transplant.

“l did run into a few complications that left me in a coma for four days after my surgery and my kidneys stopped working. After coming out from my coma and three rounds of dialysis, I was ready to live life with my brand new heart and never look back.”

However, Amanda’s story of perseverance didn’t end there.

“Fourteen months after my transplant, I was diagnosed with blood cancer. This cancer originated from my transplant, as a virus became active and damaged my blood stream. Due to the damage in my bloodstream, cancer started growing in my digestive tract and colon. All l could think was ‘here we go again’.”

Because of the Corona Virus, Amanda was forced to undergo cancer treatments all alone. And then six months later she received the news that her cancer was in remission.

“I thought after a transplant and cancer, l would be out of the woods in terms of illness. I was very much wrong. Two years after my transplant, l was diagnosed with diabetes. The diabetes originated from my transplant as well, and came from my medications l am on to keep my heart healthy and to prevent organ rejection, and also the same virus that lead to my cancer diagnosis.”

But none of that has stopped Amanda. Being the true warrior she is, she is returning to university to obtain a second degree, this time in the field of Social Work. This is why she was chosen as the 2021 recipient of the MacGillivray Law Perseverance Scholarship.

“My dream is to work with young adults in either the transplant, cancer, or diabetes community, to make it known that your illness is just a rock in your path, and not the final destination. Even when it seems impossible, always persevere and never lose sight of your ambitions. Life after a heart transplant and blood cancer is doable, and l am now unstoppable.”

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MacGillivray Law is a personal injury law firm with offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We serve clients all across Canada.

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