When Sylvain Bédard was told he had a heart, he thought he had won the lottery. The then father of four had been close to deaths door suffering for years from idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the blood vessels in the heart.
Born with the heart condition, Sylvain had seen early on the death sentence he had been given – his sister died of the same disease at only 18 years old. After the death of his sister, Sylvain, then 13 years-old, was tested and confirmed he had the same disease.
“I started to take medication to control the symptoms, but I knew one day I would need a transplant” says Sylvain.
Despite receiving a pacemaker in the early 90’s Sylvain was in chronic heart failure by 1999 and a transplant was the last resort. He spent a year and a half on the waiting list before a heart became available and he was given a second chance at life.
“It was sad for me to think I might not be able to see my boys grow up and not be there for them,” says Sylvain, “getting that news was like winning the lottery.”
Now, over 10 years later, Sylvain is living life to the fullest with his five boys aged 11-20. His quality of life has surpassed his own expectations and thanks to the availability of new anti-rejection medications he hopes to keep his new heart for the next 30 years.
“The quality of life for a transplant patient is much different now than it was in the 80’s,” says Sylvain, “I work two jobs, play sports with my kids, I don’t look like a transplant patient.”
After two years of rehab post-transplant, Sylvain decided he needed a challenge and trained to be the first heart transplant recipient to climb Mont Blanc in France. One year later he tackled Mount Sajama in Bolivia. Without his transplant and his medication, none of these feats would have been possible.
“My surgeon told me it’s a 50-50 deal. Fifty percent is the transplant and 50 percent your medication,” says Sylvain, “It’s no longer science fiction, thanks to new medications people can live with transplants 20-30 years.”
With many years left on the horizon, the possibilities are endless for Sylvain and his family. For now playing sports with his boys and being active is enough, but there will always be other mountains to climb.
“My life is about reaching summits, and my medicines are my lifeline.”