Dear family, friends, and anyone else who might see this,
Meet my sister, Aisha. Aisha is a fun loving, upbeat, musical person with an extra special appreciation for the singing. Aisha began singing in Cantaré Children’s Choir and developed her voice through individual coaching, where she later went on to sing the Canadian National Anthem at sporting events in Calgary. Aisha also joined the Calgary Opera Chorus where she performed Mikado, Lakmé, and Magic Flute. Throughout Aisha’s entire singing career, her favourite bands have always been the Coldplay and U2 and knows almost every song by heart.
In January of 2009, tragedy struck our family and Aisha was rushed into hospital with terrible chest pain. After a series of nerve-racking tests and imaging, Aisha was diagnosed with Takayasu Arteritis; a rare, systemic, inflammatory large-vessel vasculitis. The disease had attacked Aisha’s aorta in her heart. After remaining in the intensive care unit in the Calgary Children’s Hospital for months, Aisha had her first open heart surgery on April 13th 2009. Aisha found courage and comfort in songs such as “Viva La Vida”, “Life In Technicolor”, and “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” during this scary time. At the fragile age of 16, the surgeons replaced Aisha’s aortic valve with an artificial one.
The recovery process went smoothly and our family learned how to continue life with Aisha’s condition. Aisha knew that Coldplay was coming to Calgary on June 17th 2009, for the Viva La Vida tour, and was determined to get well enough to attend the concert. Many laughs were had and many tears were shed but the concert was thoroughly enjoyed by Aisha and her friend, Jocelyn. Through a stroke of luck by recognizing a member of the “Howling Bells” (the warm-up band for Coldplay at the time), Aisha and Jocelyn were taken backstage to meet the rest of the band, and… Coldplay and Chris Martin himself. They all chatted and were offered champagne and wine. Being underaged at the time, Chris gave Aisha a Ghirardelli Chocolate bar, which she still has on her bedside table to this day. On April 18th 2011, almost exactly two years after Aisha’s surgery, Aisha and I attended Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto tour together and were blown away once again.
For the next seven years, Aisha and our family returned to normal life and we handled the highs and lows of Aisha’s condition. But on August 17th, 2016, we were once again struck by an emergency. During a routine imaging procedure of Aisha’s heart, the doctors found that her previous surgery had fallen apart and her disease had returned with a vengeance. Once again, Aisha was rushed into hospital for a series of testing and imaging. Less than 48 hours later Aisha underwent a 12-hour open heart surgery on August 19th. We witnessed a miracle that day and the surgery was a success however, recovery was difficult. Through the replacement of Aisha’s aorta and extending arteries the surgeons unfortunately paralyzed half of Aisha’s vocal chords. Aisha lost the one thing that consistently made her happy and had become her identity. Aisha lost her ability to sing.
The reoccurrence of Aisha’s disease coming out of remission had prompted the doctors to prescribe her with a new set of drugs including chemotherapy drugs, which came with a whole set of nasty side effects. Aisha lost her hair, she gained weight, and was not able to sing. However, her fighting spirit never wavered and she stayed positive through it all.
Most recently, on January 13th 2018, Aisha suffered yet another tragedy. Aisha woke up sweating and with back pain. We rushed her to hospital and it soon became evident that Aisha was experiencing a heart attack. With only hours to live, Aisha was taken into the catheterization lab where the doctors unblocked the clot through an angioplasty. From that point on, Aisha embarked on her long journey to recovery. Half of Aisha’s heart was still not beating and her blood pressure was dangerously low and getting worse everyday. Aisha stayed strong and positive with our faith in the medicines, doctors, and god. After living with heart failure in hospital for months it was determined that Aisha’s heart was not going to recover on its own and the only option was a heart transplant. Aisha was officially listed on the transplant list on March 7th at 7am as the top priority in Canada.
The days crawled along as we eagerly awaited Aisha’s life saving call. Aisha’s health had deteriorated to the point where she could not get up out of bed and take two steps into a wheel chair on her own.We kept our suit cases packed at the front door knowing that at any time we would need to have Aisha whisked from the Foothills hospital in Calgary up to the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton.
On March 20th 2018, Aisha’s call came. The perfect match had come. Aisha did took the time to consider what this meant, the risks involved, the heart available, and the daunting task of undergoing a heart transplant. Aisha bravely gathered up the courage to accept the heart and within the hour, Aisha and I were in an air ambulance on our way up to Edmonton. The very next morning we wheeled Aisha down to surgery. Aisha remained brave and courageous through it all like you would not believe. She knew the risks involved, she knew the work it would take to regain her strength, and she gladly faced them all for the hope of getting her life back…
By the grace of God, Aisha’s surgery was a success! After 9 long hours of waiting, lead surgeon Dr. MacArthur delivered the news to us that the surgery went perfectly. Aisha now has a brand new young heart and sailed smoothly through the rough road to recovery. We are forever grateful for the miracle of modern medicine and indebted to the donor and their family. May God bless them and grant them eternal peace. I love you Aisha you are so strong and brave.
I cannot thank the amazing friends and family that have supported my family and I enough. Whether it was being a shoulder to cry on, sending dinners, being there to vent or talk to, or simply saying your own prayers to God for us, we truly appreciate you all. From the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you.
On top of my families own personal experience, I am getting behind this cause because cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for Canadian men and women. I want to help change this. I am canvassing to create more survivors. All of the money I raise will go to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, where they’ll use it to develop life-saving treatments that bring hope to heart disease and stroke patients.
As someone who has witnessed a loved one stare death in the face and be saved by faith and the miracle of modern medicine on countless occasions and on the grandest scale, please consider making a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Throughout this dark time, I have been reminded once again how fragile life is. The things we take for granted today may not be around tomorrow. These experiences have allowed me to put certain aspects of life into perspective. Life isn’t all about what you do for work. Your job title, how many awards you have won, how much you get paid. Your work should not define you as an individual. Life is about so much more than that when it comes down to it. I no longer ask myself “What do I want to do?” I ask myself “Who do I want to be?”
From the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you.
Thank you for reading.
Aisha’s brother, Adam Rea.