Shane with his Cardiovascular Surgeon Dr. Steven Meyer & Michele Derbyshire, Patient Care Manager

Shane's Story 

Like many young Canadian men, 21-year old Shane Lehman grew up playing and loving the sport of hockey. He excelled at the game, playing Junior A with the Spruce Grove Saints - participating in a vigorous practice and game schedule. 

Excellent health is something most young athletes take for granted and Shane was no exception. Heart failure was the furthest thing from his mind as the hockey season ended and he set out to enjoy the summer in 2009. 

In mid-June, Shane began to experience shortness of breath, decreased appetite, decreased sleep and his heart began racing. “I was 21 years old. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t really think anything of it.” says Shane. 

After a short holiday in Las Vegas, Shane could no longer ignore his symptoms. Something was drastically wrong. He was too weak to pull his own suitcase through the airport. Hoping the problem would simply pass, Shane returned to his job for three more days. 

On July 4th, 2009, Shane was admitted to the hospital. His condition was assessed and he was transferred to the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute where a dedicated team of experts went to work to determine the cause of his illness and prevent further heart damage. It appeared that Shane’s condition was caused by a virus that caused his heart to weaken and enlarge. He was placed on the heart transplant list. 

By August, Shane’s condition had worsened and it was clear that he couldn’t wait any longer for a donor organ. He met with the specialized Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) team and preparations were made for surgery that would give Shane’s heart mechanical support while he continued to wait for a transplant. 

“Before I got the VAD, I was in pretty rough shape. My heart was pumping very poorly which affected some of my other organs. I was going into kidney and liver failure,” Shane tells us. 

The VAD surgery took place on a Friday afternoon…and not a moment too soon. While Shane was on the operating table, his heart stopped. The cardiac team managed to get his heart beating and successfully installed the device. When he woke up from surgery, Shane was intubated and in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit but he felt better than he had in months. Remarkably, he was released from hospital just two weeks later. 

“I used to hate hospitals, but I’ve become used to it. The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute is incredible. The rooms are nice, there are lots of windows, computers. It’s really open. All that makes such a difference when you are going through something like this,” says Shane. “As soon as I came here, I knew this was the best place in Canada to be. The staff is great – from morning ‘til night. These guys are just non-stop. I hope I won’t need a transplant, but if I do, I know everything will be good.” 

Shane is currently enjoying life and is working hard to regain his strength and endurance. “Other than swimming and having a bath, I can do just about anything. I am going to physiotherapy to build up and maintain my strength. I lost a lot of muscle during these past months.” 

“Something like this changes your life. I think differently about what’s important and what’s not important,” says Shane. “I missed the summer, but it’s nice to be alive… that’s for sure.”

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