To some, a teddy bear given from a transplant recipient to a family may seem like an ordinary gift, but it tells the tale of two stories: one of grief and one of a second chance at life.
Lisa Russell knew she would be given a second chance at life after receiving a phone call informing her that a donor heart had been located.
“Only 10 per cent of my heart was working,” Russell told NBC affiliate, WAVE news. “I planned my own funeral.”
Russell was diagnosed with heart failure, which according to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation is “a condition that develops after the heart becomes damaged or weakened” leaving it unable to pump enough blood through a person’s body to function normally.
There are many causes of heart failure, including diabetes, and high blood pressure.
In Russell’s case, she needed a left ventricular assist device, or an LVad, which is a “surgically implanted mechanical pump that is attached to the heart.”
LVads are given to patients who have reached advanced heart failure, meaning their heart can no longer pump blood to support the body’s needs, and are waiting for surgery, aren’t eligible for surgery or as a temporary fix.
However, months after having an LVad implanted into her, Russell received good news.
“I received a phone call and I thought they were teasing that they had a heart for me,” said Russell to WAVE. “”You’re facing death and you’re mentally and emotionally preparing for death and then all the sudden you’re told you get to live.”
According to Heart and Stroke , an “estimated…600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure.”
But even though Russell was celebrating a second chance at life, she knew receiving a heart meant someone else had died.
“I received my new heart and I was so thankful. I remember going into surgery and I was thinking about the family knowing that I was celebrating life and they were also grieving.”
That’s when she had an idea.
“I’m recording the heartbeat and I’m putting it inside of a little bear,” said Russell in hopes that the family who she received the heart from would still be able to hold their family member close.
“I’m hoping when they have their difficult days they can hold on to that bear. When they hold the Teddy Bear they’ll know that’s their loved one’s heart.”
According to WAVE, the family was thankful for Russell’s kind gesture but said “they aren’t ready to meet Russell just yet.”