Christchurch mum Heidi Harty-Eugstar is grateful to be alive after her heart transplant, and the birth of her son has made that precious gift of life even more special.
Until recently, only two heart transplant recipients in New Zealand have gone on to have babies, all of them being based in the North Island.
However, two weeks ago, Heidi became the third Kiwi mum to ever do it, and the first ever in the South Island.
Incredibly, this isn’t Heidi’s first miracle birth. Fifteen years ago she was suffering from an inherited heart condition as she carried her daughter Coco to term.
She told Seven Sharp she had been suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an “abdominal thickening of the walls of the heart”.
“At one point I remember thinking ‘I’ve just got to get through the next 10 minutes, the next 20 mins, can I get through this hour?’ You just start seeing your life in bite sized pieces,” she said.
Heidi had her heart transplant five years ago and made a return to normal life, but her dream of a second child came with several risks attached.
“I just didn’t think we would be able to have another child, so after four years of IVF [and] lots of injections… [there’s been] a lot of disappointment,” she said.
During pregnancy the heart needs to work harder, and doctors had to monitor and adjust Heidi’s anti-rejection medication.
Finally, after months of pregnancy and with a large medical team present, Heidi and partner Chris Harty welcomed Remi Solomon — named after Remielle, the archangel of hope — into the world.
Heidi doesn’t know the name of her heart donor. All she knows is that she was a young woman and is the reason she’s still here after 43 years.
She hopes her story inspires more people to become donors, and to ensure their families know where they want their bodies to go after they die.
“Because of [the transplant] I’ve been able to have a child and that’s mind blowing. From one heart to two lives… it’s pretty amazing.”