Local man celebrates milestone of lifesaving heart transplant

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Donnie Muxlow celebrates his 10th anniversary of having a heart transplant with his partner Kathrin, mother Anne and father Donald on February 6 at the Blackhorse Pub. Photo by DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Donnie Muxlow celebrates his 10th anniversary of having a heart transplant with his partner Kathrin, mother Anne and father Donald on February 6 at the Blackhorse Pub. Photo by DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Local resident Donnie Muxlow celebrated a special milestone with family and close friends at the Blackhorse Pub on February 6. Exactly 10 years earlier, the 39-year-old had a heart transplant that saved his life.

The surprise anniversary party was planned by his partner Kathrin, and Muxlow said he had no idea a celebration was in store.

“She told me we were just supposed to come here tonight,” Muxlow said at the event.

Rewind to mid-December in 2005, Muxlow was an active and healthy 29-year-old, until one day he got sick with a cold. Though a cold virus was typical for the time of year, he said something felt wrong.

“I had a cold and it got worse,” Muxlow recalled. “I called my boss (Gord Funnell, Owner of Tower Road Campground) to let him know I still wasn’t feeling well and he put me on a plane to Edmonton.”

When Muxlow arrived to the city on January 15, 2006; his parents Donald and Anne Muxlow were waiting for him at the airport.

“Donnie’s father ran to get him a wheelchair because he had no strength,” explained Anne. “When we got to the St. Albert hospital, the doctors found his heart was racing really fast.”

“Donnie’s father ran to get him a wheelchair because he had no strength,” explained Anne. “When we got to the St. Albert hospital, the doctors found his heart was racing really fast.”

Shortly after, the doctors performed an electrical cardioversion (an electrical shock to the heart) to restore his heart’s regular rhythms. Two days later, Muxlow was transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital to be treated by the cardiologists in the CK Hui Heart Centre.

It was at the Centre where he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which refers to diseases of the heart muscle. Within hours, Muxlow had an Implantable Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) placed to help pump blood throughout his body. Muxlow was the third patient in Canada to have a VAD used.

“I had to have the VAD hooked up to me because the left ventricle was mostly damaged,” he explained. “The doctors told me it could take up to eight months to a year’s time to find a proper donor for a transplant.”

Fewer than two weeks later, Muxlow and his family received the news of a possible donor. Something Muxlow feels he was very lucky to have.

“I was lucky – so lucky – because some people wait a long time, but it was within weeks,” he recalled.

“I was lucky – so lucky – because some people wait a long time, but it was within weeks,” he recalled.

Anne explained how the doctors told them there could be a possibility that Muxlow could experience depression post-surgery.

“My husband and I were both like: ‘No, not Donnie,’” she said. “He always had a positive outlook on life, even as a child growing up.”

Today, Muxlow’s parents and friends call him an “inspiration” and “the most positive guy they know.”

In the past decade, Muxlow, a current employee at Vallen Industrial and Tower Road Campground, said he’s had minor issues with his heart, if any at all.

“My benefit for having the surgery was that I was young, very healthy and strong,” he said. “And, we were able to find a donor with the same blood type. The match was compatible.”

On February 2, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSF) released a new report stating about 600,000 people are living with heart failure – an incurable, long-term condition where the heart is not pumping enough blood due to damage from heart attacks and disease.

According to the Government of Canada, there are currently 4,500 people waiting for organ transplants with only a fraction of Canadians registered to donate.

Muxlow said it’s really important for people to become registered donors because it saves lives. He said it saved his life, let him find Kathrin and be a father to his son Colton, 10, and daughter Ryder, 4.

“Take me for example: my family started after the heart transplant,” he said. “For someone to accept me, in my condition and my life expectancy… that just doesn’t come every day. She’s (Kathrin) has been there with me for the past six years. Without her, it would have been really tough.”

For anyone interested in becoming an organ and tissue donor: visit www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.

– Connect Weekly –