Episode 45

full
Published on:

9th Apr 2024

From Heart Defect to Triple Transplant Triumph with Aimee Mackovic -45

In episode 45 of The Heart Chamber Podcast, we dive into Aimee Mackovic's inspiring journey through a triple organ transplant during the pandemic. An accomplished poet and English professor from Austin, Texas, Aimee shares her battle with a congenital heart defect and subsequent heart and liver failures. Her memoir, "Contains Recycled Parts," available on Amazon, details this life-altering experience. Aimee was born with a congenital defect and needed the Fontan procedure at 15 months old. To her surprise, she learned at age 44, she would need a new heart and liver and then, eventually, a new kidney. We discuss the challenges she faced, including recovery, the importance of understanding medical information, and the invaluable role of community support. Aimee emphasizes the significance of emotional readiness and the impact of writing as a healing tool. Tune in to hear her incredible story of resilience and the life-saving power of organ donation.

A Little More About Today's Guest

Aimee Mackovic was born with a congenital defect (a hole in the middle of her heart) and underwent her first open heart surgery at 15 months for a pulmonary banding, which was a temporary fix. That "fix" lasted until she was 22 years old. At 22, Aimee underwent another open-heart surgery to potentially now repair the hole. Due to the nature of the defect, a full repair was not possible, so they did a newly touted Fontan procedure, which was meant to be a bridge surgery to an eventual heart transplant. Well, another 22 years later with another hospital stay, she is admitted to Dell's Children Hospital in Austin, TX with heart and liver failure. The very complex and urgent nature of her case caused her to be taken on by Stanford Hospital in California, where she received her heart and liver on December 13th, 2019. She received a kidney transplant in June of 2022. In June of 2023, she moved back to Austin, TX, where she resumed her teaching life at Austin Community College and her social life with her friends. Her memoir, Contains Recycled Parts, is a humorous, gut-wrenching look at her triple-transplant journey.

How to connect with Aimee

Instagram: @aimeemackovic

Website: www.aimeemackovic.com

Book: Contains Recycled Parts - https://twosisterswriting.com/book/contains-recycled-parts/

How to connect with Boots

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @theheartchamberpodcast or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript

We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at connect@37by27.com.

Boots Knighton [:

Imagine having to have a triple transplant. Today, I have a conversation with Aimee Mackovic, who endured and is now thriving from a triple transplant back during the pandemic. This woman is awe inspiring and I'm so excited to share our conversation with you today. A little bit more about Aimee, she's an award-winning poet and professor of English currently living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in journals such as Main Street Rag, Gravel and Shark Reef. She also has written books including, Headlines, Love Junky, A Sentenced Woman and then her most current book, Contains Recycled Parts. Get it? It's a memoir of her triple organ transplant journey during the pandemic. Again, I'm so excited to bring you my conversation with Aimee. It is always inspiring to talk to transplant patients. It is truly a remarkable thing that we are able as a human race to recycle parts as Aimee would say. So, without further ado, I bring you my conversation with Aimee Mackovic.

Boots Knighton [:

Welcome to The Heart Chamber. Hope, inspiration, and healing. Conversations on open heart surgery. I am your host, Boots Knighton. If you are a heart patient, a caregiver, a health care provider, a healer, or are just looking for open hearted living, this podcast is for you. To make sure you are in rhythm with The Heart Chamber, be sure to subscribe or follow wherever you are listening to this episode. While you're listening today, think of someone who may appreciate this information. The number one-way people learn about a podcast is through a friend. Don't you want to be the reason someone you know gained this heartfelt information? And if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram, 2 different places, at Boots.Knighton or at The Heart Chamber Podcast. You can also find me on LinkedIn as well as Facebook. But enough with the directions. Without further delay, let's get to this week's episode.

Boots Knighton [:

Aimee Mackovic, thank you so much for reaching out to me and wanting to come on The Heart Chamber Podcast. This is what I want. We've already done the unthinkable. We've already undergone major traumatic surgeries that change us completely and permanently, usually for the better. And, therefore, I'd like to think that coming on a podcast and sharing your story is the easy part. But it's interesting. Like, there's quite a few people who are shy out there and are afraid to either tell their story or be seen or and not only do you want to tell your story, but you've also written a book. And so, I just want to applaud you for your bravery of having so many recycled parts and then being willing to, like, tell the tale. So, welcome to The Heart Chamber.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Thank you so much for having me.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. So, I mean, I don't even know where to start with you. I've never met someone with so many recycled parts. Let's just start at the 50,000-foot view of your life, and let's just start with today, like, how you are today. You are a changed woman in so many ways. Just kind of set the scene for us right now as you sit.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. Thank you. Yes. Today, sitting here, I can say, and I’m very thankful to say that I’m doing wonderfully. I’m doing great. I’m 4 years post-transplants. Doing great. Have been doing great. So, thankful for that and very thankful for my doctors and surgeons.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. That is truly amazing. And so that's the spoiler alert. Right? Aimee's knocking it out of the park. So, as you listen to her story, just keep that in mind. Like, everything turns out great. So, walk us back to how this started.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Absolutely. And for that, I have to start at the very beginning. I was born with a congenital heart defect. Found it at my 1 month well baby check. And fast forward to 15 months, I was having my first open heart surgery, and I was too small to do any kind of repair. But what they did do is put a pulmonary banding around my pulmonary artery to restrict blood flow to the lungs, and made my heart work a little more normally. And so, that ended up lasting for a very long time. Every year, we would do a checkup and they say, well, you know, what you have, you're doing well. You're doing fine. Let's wait.

Boots Knighton [:

You didn't tell us what the defect is. What was that?

Aimee Mackovic [:

It was something like a ventricular defect. I'd have to go back and look at my notes. All I know is it's described as a hole in the heart. I had a hole that was kind of basically in the middle and had a little bit of every chamber was not there. It caused the blood without oxygen to mix with the blood with oxygen. So, I wasn't getting the oxygen to my body like a normal person. But after that surgery, I was doing well for what I had. I really was. Everything was pretty, normal. And they kept saying, you know, well, she's doing okay. Let's wait till she's bigger. You know, wait till she's grown. Finally, at 22 years old, I said, you know what? I am graduating from college. If I'm going to, you know, move on, this is the time if something needs to be done, then let's do something. And my doctors were very supportive. They said, yeah. You know what? You're grown up. This is a good time. I was doing okay. I was doing well, but I wasn't at my most optimal. So, they said, yes. Let's look into that. And so, they went in the surgery with the notion of they wanted to do a full repair.

Aimee Mackovic [:

And they said if that's not possible and they wouldn't quite know until they got in there. They said, if a full repair is not possible, then we will do what's called a Fontan procedure. And so, they get in surgery, and they ended up doing a Fontan procedure, which it was explained to me at the time, but I conveniently forgot the part where they said, you know, Fontan is a bridge to a transplant. I just kind of forgot that. But I was doing great after Fontan. I was doing well. I moved to New York City. I was walking all around, walking up and down steps. So, I was doing great.

Boots Knighton [:

This is incredible. So, what were the signs, symptoms at 22 years old where you were like, okay. Let's do something now.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. Good question. There weren't any specific it was more of I knew something was going to have to be done at some point. I mean, I knew I had this pulmonary banding that was for an infant, and I was a grown adult at this time. So, I always knew that, you know, something was going to have to be done. And so, it was kind of a natural, I came out of college saying, okay. I want to move on with my life. You know? I just thought this was a good time to see if my doctors were on board with doing something.

Aimee Mackovic [:

So, the only symptoms I would say is, I mean, I wasn't a track star. You know, sometimes got a little winded walking and stuff, which didn't really slow me down too, too much, but still it was noticeable. And my lips and fingers were still blue from the blood without oxygen, you know, circulating. So, I always have that discoloration, which didn't really bother me. But physically, it, you know, slowed me down a bit.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. Did you have to go through yearly checkups also?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. Every year, they were like, you're doing okay. It was, we had the mentality of if it's not broken, don't try to fix it. So, until finally we were like, okay. You know what? Something has to be done. So, I was done with college and I said, I want to move on with my life, so let's do it. Underwent Fontan, and then I moved to New York City 6 months after that and really kind of thrived. You know, I was doing great for another 22 years.

Aimee Mackovic [:

What they have found out now, when they did the Fontan on me, it was 1997. And it was still actually a fairly new procedure. And so, what they found out over the couple of decades where after my surgery is that the Fontan can, after a while, cause or you can go into heart and liver failure. It's not meant to be a permanent fix. So, and, actually, we learned that Fontan's were meant to last maybe 10 years, and I went 22. So, I kind of feel like I got my money's worth out of that. That led to the eventual heart and liver failure. It just wore out.

Boots Knighton [:

What does that feel like in the body to let's just start with, like, the physical part knowing that that can happen and then the signs and symptoms. Like, walk me through the physical part first.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Well, what's funny is so after Fontan, again, I had my own little medical delusions that I was like, I'm done. And then, yeah, finally, it kind of wore down. And what's funny is when transplant came up at 44 years, my mom said, oh, Aimee, honey, no. This actually was mentioned before your Fontan procedure as a possible, you know, down the line kind of thing. And I had just pushed that out of my mind. So, it was a little bit of a shock to me then when at 44 years when the doctor said, you know what? You need a heart and liver transplant. It was kind of a shock for a moment. I was like, oh, okay.

Boots Knighton [:

Were you getting, like, a yearly echocardiogram?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. I maybe skipped a year or 2, but, yes, I had yearly echos, yearly checkups. And I'm thinking back to before transplant is, so about a year and a half before that, saw my cardiologist, and he said, you know what? Let's do a CAT scan. And he was watching there. I had an aortic aneurysm. So, I said, you know what? We need to repair this. He was like, okay. I'm on board with that. So, we actually set a surgery date for, I think it was 4 months down the line or something. And then it was within that time, I went downhill very fast. It was kind of striking. Right before the surgery date, and it said, no. You're way too sick. Can't do the same where you, you know, you need a transplant. So, yeah, so it was funny. I had taken steps to try and get my aortic, you know, fixed, had surgery date. And then that just got pushed away. Starting 6 months before transplant, there were signs and symptoms.

Boots Knighton [:

What were those signs and symptoms? Because I know my listeners will want to know.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Absolutely. I mean, extreme, extreme fatigue. The last couple months I was pretty much housebound. Yeah. I asked friends to bring me Gatorades. It got to the point right before I was admitted to the hospital where I lived on the second floor, and it was too hard for me to walk down to walk my dog and walk back up. And with the liver failure at the time, I didn't know what it was, but then we found out I looked pregnant. Like, I looked about 5 or 6 months pregnant, and that was the liver failure. So, that was another big symptom that was there.

Boots Knighton [:

Were there any blood markers that they were watching at the time?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Oh, good question. I don't know. I don't remember any. I think I had labs, you know, obviously, a little before that, but I don't think there are any blood markers that they were looking at. It was more the CAT scans and then my physical body.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. So, you were expected to have this aneurysm surgery. That got canceled. Now you have to have transplant, but there's a process for that. Tell us about that.

Aimee Mackovic [:

I was first admitted to Dell Children's Hospital here in Austin because, ironically or cosmic fate, my surgeon who had done my Fontan headed up to Dell Children’s. So, he got me in with him, but Dell Children's did not do transplants at the time. They just started doing transplants on children. But he was kind enough to get me in there to kind of figure out what was going on. I still remember his face. I thought this was a last consultation before my surgery to get my aortic repair, and he walked in the room. And I knew immediately that something was wrong. And he just said, he just was, shook his head and was very stoic. And he was like, Aimee, I can't do your surgery anymore. You're too sick. So, he admitted me that day. And then it was within a few days that he came in and he was like, you know, you're in heart failure, you're in liver failure, and you need transplants. So, that immediately started the process of, he got on the phone with a few colleagues at Mayo Clinic, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic. He was trying to find out the best place for me to go. And then we talked to Stanford and kind of decide to go out there. My mom lives out there, so that was a good place.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yeah. So, we kind of started that process immediately. And then, of course, when I got to Stanford, I had a whole, there was blood tests. There were other tests. There was psychological evaluation, a lot of things to get on the transplant list. That took a little while, but got us through it all and got me listed.

Boots Knighton [:

I've heard about the psychological testing, and correct me if I'm wrong, if you've experienced this differently, but the psychological part has been the hardest part of all the transplants I've spoken to. Was that your experience?

Aimee Mackovic [:

I'd have to say no.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay.

Aimee Mackovic [:

It was all about, it was really they wanted to see if you were going to take care of your new organs post-transplant, if you were in a good headspace to be able to do that.

Boots Knighton [:

Mm-hmm. But then, like, even the experience afterwards, the psychological experience of having, like, these new parts. I'm kind of getting ahead of us. But since you mentioned the psychological piece, it just sounds like it's such a journey.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. Post transplant. Absolutely. I battled depression for sure. I received my transplant in December of 2019. And then in March, you know, we went right into COVID. So, my mom who had been with me every day in the hospital was kicked out, you know, in mid-March. And I think that was the roughest for me. Psychologically it was the roughest for me. I was used to having her there, you know, and she was also very good in communicating with doctors, you know, making sure things were being done that needed to be done. And I was there, of course, but she was really a great, you know, advocate. When she left, that was a battle I had to take on. That was the respite. And to the point of where we would FaceTime a lot. And, she finally, it was, you know, a couple of weeks after she had been gone. And she's like, Aimee, she's like, talk, you know, talk to someone, get a doctor give you something. You know? You're depressed. And it's funny because they say that, you know, sometimes you don't even know you're depressed until someone tells you, you are. And so, I was reluctant at first. I was like, I'm just in the hospital recovering. I'm okay. But finally, they gave me some Lexapro and I've been on that ever since. And that really helped me kind of get me on my funk at the time.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. I'm so glad that you advocated for that. So, how long did you have to wait before you got your transplant? Like, once you were put on the list.

Aimee Mackovic [:

So, I get put on the list, and then I think it was, a week later, I got extremely sick. It was little E. coli infections. So, I had a couple of infections that then they had to take me off the list, and we battled that a couple of times. But then once I was put back on the list, this was December by this point. It was maybe 3 days. It was really quick, luckily.

Boots Knighton [:

What was the total wait time then?

Aimee Mackovic [:

So, I would say, two and a half months.

Boots Knighton [:

You were in the hospital for 2 months waiting, and then they were probably giving you medications to keep your heart and liver functioning while you were waiting.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Well, yes. So, that's a journey as well is I was admitted, you know, got on some meds and stuff. It was Thanksgiving where they ended up putting me on the ECMO machine, which is kind of, it's the last, kind of a last-ditch effort to keep a patient alive enough to get to transplant. So, I was on ECMO from Thanksgiving till I got my transplant on the 13th. That was 3, 3 weeks later. You know, the ECMO is meant for a very short time, very limited time. It's not meant to be used as a prolonged, in a prolonged state. So, I was really kind of pushing it with the 3 weeks, but luckily, they came in and told us. But, yeah, luckily, they were able to do that, so.

Boots Knighton [:

How long were you in the hospital afterwards?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Right. And I don't want to scare anyone out there, but I was in the hospital about 11 months total.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Okay. Okay.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. And a very long, rough recovery.

Boots Knighton [:

We need to be real.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yeah, absolutely. And, I will say that my organs were functioning perfectly. So, the prolonged hospitalization was not so much with my organs. It was a couple things. It was, I was on a trach. So, I was on a ventilator. So, and my lungs had always been a little underdeveloped and they were super weak. And so, it took me a long time.

Aimee Mackovic [:

It took my body a long time to finally work up the strength to get off the ventilator. That was the biggest hurdle, it seemed like. And then I kept having a couple little potholes, just little minor medical things that came up, you know, small bowel obstruction, things like that. Just little things that were ahead of GI, you know, GI bleeds were off and on. So, little things that weren't really related to the transplant, but just other things that kept popping up.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. How long were you on the trach for?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Oh, let's see. It was right after transplant. So, I'd say, yeah, it was about 8 months. It was a long time.

Boots Knighton [:

I'm so sorry. You've really overcome the Mount Everest of health situations, it seems. And I see you. I just want you to know I see you, and I hear you, and I really celebrate your life today. I feel honored to be spending this hour with you.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Well, thank you. I mean, I know others have had it worse, but I also know that, yes, I, you know, I did go through a lot. And it's a privilege for me to sit here today and talk to you as well. Absolutely.

Boots Knighton [:

What was the first day out of the hospital like for you?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Well, it was simply, it was driving back to my mom's house. But I do remember we got home about dinner time. I mean, it took the morning for them to discharge me. Everyone came by. Like, it was the pharmacist came by to go over all the medications. Transplant coordinator came by to make sure you know; we knew everything to do. I was still on a feeding tube, so the technician came by to teach us how to use a feeding tube when we got home. But, yes, I got home and my mom made some frozen ravioli with sauce, and it was the best. It was the best ravioli ever. I just, I was sitting at her kitchen table, and I was just like, oh my god. This is the best.

Boots Knighton [:

And so, you moved in with her in California?

Aimee Mackovic [:

I did. Yeah. She lives about 3 hours from Stanford. So, that was kind of a no brainer that after surgery, I would, you know, go to her house for a while. And that turned out to be a huge blessing. I was very happy to be in her house and in her guest room and eat her ravioli. Yeah.

Boots Knighton [:

Her frozen ravioli. And so, then you probably had more heart Caths and other biopsies. Other transplants I've talked to, they have to go through so many heart catheterizations.

Aimee Mackovic [:

I had a bunch of those while I was in the hospital too. And then after I was discharged, I think I did one more, but it was more about then they went to echos and blood tests, and that's how they kind of they maintain that. So, the 1st year, 6 weeks of months, we were going down quite frequently for check-in, you know, checkups, and then it tapers off a little bit. But yeah, that 1st year felt like a lot of back and forth to Stanford for medical stuff. Cause I had done only the heart. I had the liver that we're trying to set me up to get the kidney transplant, and I was on dialysis. You know, I came out of the hospital going on dialysis. So, there's a lot of moving parts. Yeah. We're just trying to maintain all of that.

Boots Knighton [:

Oh, right. Okay. So, then the kidneys.

Aimee Mackovic [:

We skip that. Yeah. So, basically, the kidneys due to the ECMO and the huge surgery, that kind of killed the kidneys. And, unfortunately, sometimes with heart transplant patients, sometimes that happens. And so, it was me with the echo, with the ECMO surgery and then the transplant surgery just kind of killed the kidneys. So, I was put on dialysis in the hospital, you know, starting in like, January and then, had to maintain that, of course, after I left. So, yeah. And that was 3 times a week. I was going down, you know, maybe half hour for a dialysis. So, yeah, so that was kind of my life the first, you know, year after I got out of the hospital. It was just dialysis and just getting better, getting stronger.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. So, you had your heart and liver transplant in December of 2019, when was the kidney transplant?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. June of 2022. And Stanford had this program where if you had a liver transplant, you could be bumped to the top of the kidney transplant list if you got on this list. So, we were working towards that. So, we said, yes. You know, we want to do this. So, they were kind enough to get that set up. So, I was listed about a year later. It took a little while to get on the list, but then then you wait, so.

Boots Knighton [:

So, you were living with your mom this entire time?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. You know, a big thing I push on this podcast is the importance of community and the importance of receiving help. It's so hard to ask and then receive the help. And, I mean, it was life and death for you. You had no choice, and I'm so grateful that your mom was able to support you through all of that. But not everyone's as fortunate as you. Like, it's just one good fortune after another. I mean, for considering the situation you're given, I'm sure you would have rather not had all that happen. But the universe is like, man, you're going to go through a really hard time, and you're not ever going to be alone as you go through this.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Absolutely. Yeah. As I said, I was blessed with my mom to be there. And that's one of the things when you get set up for a transplant is they make sure you absolutely have to have one person for the 1st year that is going to be there. They won't let you just, you know, have a transplant if you don't have some kind of support system like that. I've always had a great mom, and I was super, super blessed that she was able to be there with me.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. So, you had your transplant and for the kidneys. And is that as consequential as heart and liver?

Aimee Mackovic [:

No. So, I'll never forget when I was in the hospital after my first transplant, we were talking to the kidney doctor, you know, he would come in from some time. And so, and he was talking about a kidney, you know, eventual kidney transplant. And I asked him, I said, okay, how long will I be in the hospital after? He said, 5 to 7 days. And I weighed my arm. I was like, sign me up. I was like, I will take that. Yeah. So, the kidney transplant, and I was in the hospital only, I think, 5 days. I hate to say super simple, but relative to what I've been through, it was super simple. Surgery was at noon. And by 7 that evening, I was talking to my mom on FaceTime, which she and her significant other were not there, but that was fine. We knew that. And, yeah. And I was talking to her at, like, 7 PM, and she was going to come the next, you know, couple days. So, very simple relative to what I've been through.

Boots Knighton [:

This may be a dumb question, but did you have both your kidneys replaced?

Aimee Mackovic [:

No. So, what happened with me is I actually have 3 kidneys in me right now. They just leave the other 2, and I received one kidney. So, yeah, I have 3 little kidneys in me right now.

Boots Knighton [:

Really? So, where is it? Where did they put it?

Aimee Mackovic [:

On my left side. Right? So, they're in my left side. It's kind of funny if they do that.

Boots Knighton [:

Okay. So, then that was in June of 2022. Let's not lose the fact that you did all of this during COVID?

Aimee Mackovic [:

I mean, in a way, it was kind of the perfect time to be in the hospital because nothing else was going on.

Boots Knighton [:

That's one way to look at it.

Aimee Mackovic [:

I know. Well, it was in February when I was in the hospital right after the transplant. And mom and one of the nurses was talking about this new virus that was going around COVID. And I was like, I don't want to hear about that right now. I was like, I'm in the hospital. And mom was like, well, okay, Aimee. But, like, there are things going on outside the hospital that we need to be aware of. And sure enough, it was, you know, a few weeks later, the hospital shut down, so.

Boots Knighton [:

Take us to your book. You decided to write a book. I love the name. Contains Recycled Parts. Like, that's a monumental decision to sit down and write a book. I can say that because I've done it myself. I haven't published it yet. But for me, when I wrote my book, you know, my mom died at the same time that I was fighting to live, and she died of heart failure. And it was such a juxtaposition for me, and I had to just go and process it on the page. And it turned me inside out in ways I did not expect. I want to know what it was like for you to then go process what you had been through on the page.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Right. Yes. Great question. Well, I'd always been a writer as I'm a poet and writer, so I really wanted to put down this experience. I had toyed with writing, you know, poems about it, but I was like, no. I want to write a chronological journey that will tell this massive journey I just went through. And, yeah, and it helped me process things and really look back. And kind of at the end, I went, wow. I, you know, I did go through a lot and can't believe I'm on the other side. But, yeah, it just for me, it just felt kind of natural to want to put this journey into words on the page. Yeah. I mean, it took, you know, a good year of writing. I was still at my mom's, so I wasn't doing too much else. So, yeah, it just kind of was a nice time to be able to sit down and really look back and process it. I don't know that I truly processed it fully until I kind of, sat down to write through it all. And through the process of writing it, I went back and looked at all these Facebook entries that my mom had posted.

Aimee Mackovic [:

We had made a private Facebook group for all our friends and family so mom could keep them all abreast of what was going on. So, it was really a trip to look back at all the posts she had made and said, oh, yeah. That happened at that time. And, oh, I forgot about this. Yeah. So, it was kind of fascinating to kind of look back through my mother's eyes, you know, at those posts too.

Boots Knighton [:

What were the emotions you experienced as you were reprocessing your story?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yeah. I think the major emotion was gratitude. I was just like, wow. I can't believe I'm here. I was honestly, that's it. Like, I'm so grateful that I'm still here and able to talk to you and others and just enjoy, you know, and enjoy life, being here for my family and friends. I want to say kind of in awe, too. I was sort of like, wow. This was a massive journey. And, you know, when you're going through it, you maybe don't realize how big of a deal it is. But then, yeah, looking back, can say, wow, that was a mountain to climb. Evidently, I would say gratitude is what I was feeling while I was writing it. Yeah.

Boots Knighton [:

Who published the book for you?

Aimee Mackovic [:

It's called Atkins and Greenspan. It's a hybrid publisher out of Michigan. So, they work with you to, you know, get it in ship shape, to be able to be published, and, they work with you with cover art and all that. So, yeah, they're really lovely.

Boots Knighton [:

Where can we find the book?

Aimee Mackovic [:

It is on Amazon. If you Google, you know, in the Amazon search, you can do Contains Recycled Parts, and you will find it. Yeah.

Boots Knighton [:

What are the other ways we can find you besides Amazon?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. I am on Facebook as Aimee Mackovic, AIMEE MACKOVIC. And my website is aimeemackovic.com.

Boots Knighton [:

I ask this of every guest I have on The Heart Chamber. What is one piece of burning advice you just wish to give to the world today?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Get a journal for two reasons. One, to write for yourself, but also take notes at every appointment you have with everybody. Take notes. My mom did that for me and for herself, but that was invaluable to have notes of, like, okay. This is what the doctor said this day. This is what they said last week. So, that's my number one piece of advice is get a journal and keep notes of your appointments.

Boots Knighton [:

I can't agree more with that. And if I could add to that, also, be sure to go back and read the doctor's note of your visit and make sure it matches and make sure you heard the doctor right and they're getting better. Like, for instance, my cardiologist now always brings her phone in, and she records our conversations. And that's how she's doing her notes now. Because now the AI can, like, generate these really helpful notes for doctors and their patients. And I always go back and reread them, and it can be a little triggering sometimes, but because I always seem to miss something. Because our nonmedical brains are trying to keep up with the medical speak and processing the emotional parts of our journey at the same time that the doctor is just, like, looking at you as a patient and being like, so, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh. And you're like, okay. But wait a minute. I got to, like, go back and feel about this first because this is hard. Right?

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. Absolutely. I concur. Yeah. I used to never read my post appointment summary notes, but now I'm pretty vigilant about that. You're going back and just reviewing them at least and making sure, okay. Yes. That's right. Or, yes, I remember this.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. And like I said, I mean, I really feel like you have to be ready for it emotionally and mentally. If you've got something hard going on, you have to be able to cope as you're reading it. And if you can't, then that's when it's probably time to consider a medication, a therapist, a friend to sit with you, or a loved one to help you read through it all. Because we don't have to go through any of this alone.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yeah. And I will say my little community was super amazing.

Boots Knighton [:

I am so glad to hear that. Aimee, I am going to think about this interview for a really long time. We all can do hard things, and if there was ever a testament that a human can go through the hardest of the hard, it's you. And so, I hope so many people will listen to this episode and just be in awe of you and the medical community that we can even recycle parts.

Aimee Mackovic [:

Yes. They've come so far in such a little time with being able to do organ transplants. And, yeah. And I just hope that, you know, really think about that little, check that box when you go to get your driver's license renewed. You never know, you know, you could save a life. You could save many lives, actually.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. Well, thanks again for your time, Aimee. And, everyone, I will put how to get in touch with Aimee in the show notes. And be sure to come back next week for another story of hope, inspiration, and healing.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you for sharing a few heartbeats of your day with me today. Please be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast wherever you are listening. Share with a friend who will value what we discussed. Go to either Apple Podcasts and write us a review or mark those stars on Spotify. I read these and your feedback is so encouraging and it also helps others find this podcast. Also, please feel free to drop me a note at boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I truly want to know how you're doing and if this podcast has been a source of hope, inspiration, and healing for you. Again, I am your host, Boots Knighton, and thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another episode of The Heart Chamber.

SUPPORT THE HEART CHAMBER

We rely on the generous donations of listeners like you to bring inspiration, hope and healing every week. Thank you for contributing to our cause.
DONATE HERE
A
We haven’t had any Tips yet :( Maybe you could be the first!
Show artwork for The Heart Chamber

About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
Support This Show