When you hear of someone celebrating a milestone, weddings, anniversaries and graduations probably come to mind. Today we celebrate a different kind of milestone: one year living with a Total Artificial Heart. One year ago today, Tiernee Gonzalez (pictured above, middle, with her care team) created history. On November 8, 2012, she became the first female in a pediatric hospital to receive a device that replaced her own heart. The SynCardia Total Artificial Heart was chosen for Tiernee to save her life; an extreme measure that has truly proven successful.
Simply celebrating the time that has passed since Tiernee survived the extensive surgery, recovery and rehabilitation these last 12 months isn’t enough. We would like to honor the great strides she has made throughout this journey, especially with the adherence to her self-management routine. This includes carrying around more than 13 pounds of medical equipment each day and a 24/7 commitment to monitoring her device. She carries the SynCardia freedom driver device around in a backpack which gives her the ability to live a seemingly normal life. However, this means that she sleeps, eats and even showers with her driver! Her days are filled with medications, therapy and daily logging of how well her device is working. But she still makes time to do things that other people her age would be doing, like her nails! Just imagine this routine for a year, and counting.
Her care team and family are so incredibly proud of Tiernee; she truly amazes us. Having been so ill before the device implantation, she inspires everyone around her each day with her energy, positive attitude and dedication to health while she awaits a heart transplant. Her story is still being written as she receives therapies to help increase her chances of receiving a donor heart, but meanwhile, she smiles each and every day.
Tiernee has modeled herself as a fighter and role model for other adolescents and teens suffering from heart failure. She reaches out to everyone she can and has even taken the time to speak with an elementary class about the challenges she has faced and the successes she’s had. Tiernee’s aspirations are to continue educating others and even to further educate herself by attending college and hopefully graduate school one day.
Today we celebrate the story of a survivor; someone who inspires us each day to never give up. We look forward to this young lady’s future as it looks very bright. Congratulations Tiernee, and to all who have made this journey with you a reality.