Michael’s new lease on life

Michael Bro’s partner wasn’t sure he was going to live to see Christmas.

After having a heart transplant Michael Bro is able to do things he couldn’t before – including doing chores around the house. A dance will be held in support of Bro this Saturday.

Michael Bro’s partner wasn’t sure he was going to live to see Christmas.

He proved her wrong and now, with a new heart, has been given a new lease on life.

Bro, who was born with a congenital heart defect, has suffered a lifetime of health issues related to his old tired, failing heart. Last spring, Bro was in cardiac failure but surgery to correct the problem only made things worse and Bro lapsed into a 25-day coma.

“I thought he wasn’t going to make it after March he was doing so bad,” said Julan Chersinoff.

“Julan had to come face-to-face with the fact that I maybe wasn’t going to make it,” said Bro.

While unconscious, Bro suffered a stroke which has left him with no peripheral vision in his right eye and robbed him of his ability to drive.

In September, a few months after the failed surgery, Bro went on the transplant list and miraculously a new heart was found for Bro just a month and a half later. In November Bro underwent another surgery, this time to replace his heart.

“It’s been like night and day since the surgery,” said Bro. “After the spring surgery I would get tired walking from the bedroom to the living room (about 25 feet away) and I would be out of breath and have chest pain. Now I’ll walk the block and a half to the grocery store and my legs get tired before my heart – it’s really neat.”

Bro said the amount of freedom he now has is also a breath of fresh air. Up until the last couple of weeks, Bro always had to have someone close by in case he suffered medical distress.

But now that Bro is living the Heart Transplant Home, which is run by the Transplant Society and located across the street from St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, his doctors have decided it’s safe for Bro to be on his own and even go for short walks by himself.

Julan says the thought makes her nervous. Bro is enjoying the freedom.

“On my first walk by myself I thought I’d walk from the Heart Home to the Shaw building (downtown) and I ended up walking 25 blocks – I did too much. About half of the way my legs were so wobbly, with a combination of being tired and my stroke, that I looked like I had too many,” laughed Bro.

But it took awhile to get to where Bro is now. After the transplant Bro was retaining fluids and doctors discovered there were blockages where the new heart was connected to the old system. Three stents were inserted into Bro’s arteries to open up the blood flow and now Bro is thriving. He feels he can trust his heart whereas before he lived in fear of his heart tiring or stopping.

“What is a transplant supposed to do? It’s supposed to give you new life. And you know what? That’s what it did,” said Bro. “I can’t stress how amazing it is to me that I have this new heart in me, it’s unreal.”

To make sure Bro’s body continues to accept the new heart, he will have to be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life plus other medications which cost $250 a week, for the unforeseen future.

Bro and Chersinoff have five children between the two of them and are having to support themselves with a single salary. Bro was forced to stop working in Jan. 2010 after his heart began to give out and he is unsure when, if ever, he will be able to return to work.

The community has pulled together to help out, even making Christmas possible.

“We thought we weren’t going to have a Christmas but the Association for Community Living (Bro’s former employer), their clients and staff, gave us boxes and boxes of food, cash and little presents. This is what made Christmas happen, we were able to give our kids presents and have a Christmas when things were looking bleak,” said Bro, who also acknowledged his parents, landlords and Chersinoff’s employer for their support.

Anyone interested in helping the family can attend a Valentine’s dance in support of Bro on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. at the Quinsam Wellness Centre (2005 Eagle Drive) behind the Shell gas station along the Inland Island Highway. There will be performances by DUFFY and a silent auction with rides home provided for $5. Tickets to the dance are $25 and can be purchased at Uniglobe River City Travel and the Campbell River District and Association for Community Living on Greenwood Street or at the door. Volunteers are still needed as are items for the silent auction. For more information contact Winna, 250-923-1033. An account is also set up in Michael Bro’s name at Scotiabank, account number 10850 00204 19, to make a donation.

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