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My name is Anthony Breakey which is rather apt as my surname rhymes with the Billy Rae Cyrus song Achy Breaky Heart, where he sings, “Don’t break my heart, my Achy Breaky heart….” Little did I know that this song would take on a whole new meaning to me after I’d sustained a massive heart attack in 2008.  Up until my heart attack I’d been very healthy, extremely fit and pushed myself to the limit in everything I did.  My Cardiologist said that I suffered a massive heart attack and had had a leaking aortic valve since birth, which I was totally unaware of.  All my life I’d pushed myself to the limit, whether it was sport, work or whatever I undertook.

To give you an idea of just how far I used to push myself; at the time of my heart attack I going to gym 3/4 times a week, playing golf once a week, body boarding at my favourite break, Vic Bay, running marathons, mountain biking, playing and coaching rugby, worked as a Regional Sales Manager and National Trainer for the company I was with, which involved travelling the Southern and Eastern Cape monthly and flying both locally and internationally most months. I was also active in my church and was an active Priest in my community. I remember a nursing sister asking me what I did, after I’d been brought in for the massive heart attack, when I mentioned the above she mumbled something about my brains being “fried” from the morphine I’d been given! I was rather offended by her remark and when my wife was allowed in to see me, she confirmed everything that I’d said was true, much to the amazement of the nursing sister.

I was 42 when I was struck down by this massive heart attack.  I’d left home for a mountain bike ride up the Outeniqua Mountains with a burning sensation in chest, but I wasn’t going to let a tight chest and heartburn ruin my ride.  Had I known that this was the start of a heart attack I would never have continued on the strenuous 2 hour mountain bike ride.  Eventually when I made it back home, I was in excruciating pain; it felt as if a huge belt was being tightened around my chest notch for notch.  My wife then suggested I take a Disprin which I refused as I didn’t see the benefit of taking it. At my wife’s, third request I decided to take it and this according to my Cardiologist saved my life, as it unblocked my main artery which had completely blocked. As I was struggling to breathe my wife took me to the local GP. While waiting in the reception room I fell off the chair in unbearable pain, that’s when people started running around and an ambulance was called to take me to hospital.  It was here that my wife and daughters were told that it was touch and go as my heart had been severely damaged.  Through the Grace of God I survived.  According to the attending Physician I would not have survived had I not been so fit.

I lived with heart failure from the day of my heart attack.  My ejection fraction, which is the amount of blood being pumped from the heart to the body, was about 30% and anything below 40% is termed as heart failure.

In 2011 I underwent open heart surgery as my ejection fraction was at 25% and dropping. I received a mechanical aortic valve as my one was leaking excessively and the heart had formed an aneurysm which was repaired. My breathing was becoming more and more laboured which led to me being medically boarded as my ejection fraction had dropped to 19% and at one stage went down to 12%.

I was told in 2011 to go for tests to see if I qualified to be placed onto the heart transplant list. I decided not to do this as the open heart surgery had been very traumatic for both me and my family. In 2013, after being hospitalised yet again and being told that my family should come to the hospital as my body was starting to shut down I decided to go for the transplant tests if I made it out of the hospital. The sadness on the faces of my daughters and wife made me rethink the whole transplant decision.  It was the best decision I ever made! It is difficult to explain to someone the absolute fear of waking up and feeling as if you’re drowning, in fact I was drowning from the inside as water had backed up on my lungs as the heart was so weak and the lungs in turn couldn’t do their job. This drowning sensation occurred on numerous occasions and it is terrifying when it happens while you are sleeping.

Being medically boarded at age 45 and having to watch the world pass you by is a sad place to be.  Having been so active and now all I could do was sit in a chair all day, at times on oxygen and permanently on a apnoea machine takes a lot readjustment.  I went through some difficult times and became depressed and I remember asking God to please take me home to Him.  I also remember praying and asking Him if he wasn’t going to take me home then please give me the strength to deal with my broken heart.  In my time of being boarded I have written an Autobiography titled, “Blue Boy with a Broken Heart,” which I hope to publish soon and I’m also planning on starting a sequel soon.  I also remember asking God that should He take me home, He must please allow me to die with dignity. That’s the thing with folks like me who are faced with their own mortality; you learn to accept death much earlier and quicker than those who haven’t suffered a life threatening disease.

In 2013 I was placed on the heart transplant list as a priority patient. In mid 2016 I was called to the hospital as a donor heart had been found, I was prepared for theatre only to be told 10 mins before I was to be wheeled off to theatre that the donor heart wasn’t suitable. Some may feel despondent faced with such a scenario but I chose to take the positives instead. I saw it as a sign that God had not forgotten me and He was reminding me of this fact.  It was at this time that I was becoming depressed and was having doubts that I would receive a transplant.  I would only learn later, how few transplants are done and how many people die while waiting for a transplant.

I decided to become involved with the Organ Donor Foundation at around this time, as I’d started to hear of the dire situation involving patients waiting for transplants.  I signed up for Volunteer training and went on to man their info/awareness tables for them.  It was heartening to see the mostly positive responses we received by assisting in spreading the ODF’s awareness.

Towards the end of 2017 I was hospitalised again.  This was one of the average 5 times a year that I was hospitalised since 2011!  The 2017 hospitalisation was different, as I’d picked up other problems due to my heart failure and had a couple of ops during this stay.  I spent Christmas and New Year in hospital and ended up spending 3 months in total in hospital.  My Cardiologist used to waltz into my room most mornings singing the Achy Breaky song to me, making my stay far more pleasant than it might have been.  Some mornings when he wasn’t up to the singing he would ask the nurses to do so as in the end I had become a part of the family in the hospital.

After my second month in hospital I mentioned to my Cardiologist that I wanted to return home as I’d made peace with the fact that I may not get a transplant.  He advised me not to, but agreed to keep me one more week and then let me go home if I still wanted to.

It was a Sunday that we had had the conversation about me going home.  The Monday I got the call in my hospital bed that a donor had been found and that I may be operated on Monday night or Tuesday morning.  I decided not to become too excited remembering my previous experience. Later that evening my Surgeon informed me that it all looked good and I would be transplanted Tuesday morning

I was informed by my surgeon that I may “see” strange creatures on the ceiling when I came around from the operation, a result of the medication administered during surgery. My wife who was with me when I came around from the op, said when I opened my eyes I began to study the ceiling intently, then I said, “That’s good there are no goggas on the ceiling!” The second thing I said, “it feels so easy breathing!”   I have been unbelievably blessed with a second lease on life, and feel so grateful and indebted to my donor and his family that I intend honouring this ultimate gift of life by living the best possible life.

Today, 5 months after my transplant I truly feel like a million bucks! I can walk an entire supermarket whereas I used to plan a couple of trips to walk through the same supermarket!  I have had some depression, mostly related to a friend I lost in hospital and to the donor and his family but I’m getting stronger each day.  It feels as if I have a future again.

Recently I was able to work solidly for two days in the garden, 10 years after the last time I could do this before my heart attack. I believe God has given me a second chance and I intend embracing it wholeheartedly!  I have made numerous friendships with Doctors, Sisters, Nurses, pre and post transplant patients and the ODF team, for this I’m truly grateful.  I’m planning on raising awareness for the ODF by running a half marathon next year and am also going to become active with the ODF once I’ve moved back to my home in George in order to raise awareness in the Southern and Eastern Cape.

Please Talk about, Register and Share your decision to be an organ and tissue donor with family and friends.  You may just be a hero to someone one day. #BeAHero

Anthony Breakey

 

25 Comments

  1. Ray

    Great story Anthony – very glad you’re able to tell it!!

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thank you Ray, and yes I’m truly blessed to be able to tell my story, unfortunately there are many who will never get to tell their’s. I pray that I can help just one awaiting transplant patient receive their transplant by getting a possible donor to sign up! Take care my friend. God bless.

      Reply
    • Dino

      Thanks for that Anthony.

      Reply
      • Anthony Breakey

        Hey Dino

        Thinking of you and am amazed as to what you are able to do with your heart limitations. You are an inspiration to me bud. God bless you always my friends.

        Ant

        Reply
  2. Mariana Coetzer

    Fills my heart with joy when I finally get the opportunity to hear, or read how it all happened and then the outcome which is truly a miracle. You are an inspiration.

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thank you kindly Mariana, and a BIG thank you for taking care of my meds every month! Best prices and free delivery anywhere in SA from Scriptwise! Believe me when I say the best prices, compared them to most the other pharmacies. Take care my friend and I’ll definitely let you when I publish my story!

      Reply
  3. A Koekemoer

    Hi Anthony
    Wow what a testimony
    It is so great to hear your story
    I recall you when I was in recovery after my transplant and having spoken to you in 2016 just as they were prepping you for surgery just to have you stand in my bedroom door to say cheers and share that the donor heart was not healthy for tramsplant have wondered what had happened to you as I was so sorry for you and your family just having recieved my blessing and here yours was not going ahead
    I always prayed and.hoped to hear about you as the powerfull comforting words you shared with me has stuck
    “We are all spiritual beings abiding time on this earth”
    I always refered to you as my.friend from George but bad with names never realy got to learn more about you
    Take care
    Your brother recipient
    Ali
    Koekemoer

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Ali, my friend from EL, what a wonderful surprise to hear from you! How’s the water sports going? I guess I’ll be getting my chance to body board at Vic Bay as soon as my chest is strong again! I remember our brief encounter as if it was yesterday. You also inspired me, to see you walking around as if nothing had happened to you, 8 days after your heart transplant! I still remain mindful of the fact that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. My other new saying, which my heart transplant recipient friend, Prof Evance instilled into me, is that, “I’m just a man seeking redemption.” Lovely hearing from you my friend, take care and God Bless.

      Reply
  4. Margotkeys

    Brilliant Article Ants. Love you xx

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thank you kindly my friend, the prayers Sean said for me the day before I was told about my transplant will always hold a special place in my heart! Love you guys!

      Reply
  5. Juna

    Thanks for sharing, Ant. Onward and upward!

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thank you kindly Juna, I pray one day for the upward but not right now! ☺

      Reply
  6. Paul Paarman

    Great story Anthony I am so glad you are feeling stronger each day.. you are truly an inspiration my friend

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thank you Paul for your very kind words of encouragement, I must add that without God I am nothing! Look after yourself my bud. 🙏☺👍

      Reply
  7. M LAWRENCE BREAKEY

    Dear Brother, I have resisted reading this because I knew it would bring tears to my eyes. I have read it. My tears are flowing. With gratitude that you are alive and with admiration. Nothing that I have done or accomplished in life can compare to your bravery and fighting spirit. Whatever half marathon you run , you know my promise. We run together, run, walk or crawl. Once you have decided on a race, of course its your choice, i am on the plane. On a lighter note, who checked your story, grammar is great, style of writing is masterclass. PS. I relate to your panick attacks waking up feeling like you were drowning. But that is another story for another day. xxxx

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Thanks for your words of encouragement boet and yes we will be running for the Organ Donor Foundation at the 2018, 2 Oceans Half Marathon, God willing. Luckily the lady who runs this Blog, edited my jumbled words! Glad you got to read my story! Take care and God bless brother.

      Reply
  8. Rob Fleming

    A well-written account of what you went through. So good to hear that you are getting “strong like Russia used to be” Skinny.

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Hey Rob, great to hear from you bud. You are an inspiration to many others I’m sure, your sense of humour and positive attitude even with your challenges inspire me too! Had to chuckle at you remembering my old nickname of”Skinny”, at a 100kg’s now that’s a great compliment to get! 😃 Take care boet!

      Reply
  9. Denise Cogle

    Liewe Anthony, ek kan nie anders as om met trane in my oë hierdie te lees nie. Daar was nie n dag wat verby gegaan het wat ons nie vir jou gebid het nie. Jy was vir ons ook n wonderlike inspirasie deur jou ongelooflike sterk geloof. Jou familie wat jou bygestaan het, Chantelle wat ons altyd ophoogte gehou het met jou vordering. Ek dank die Hemelse Vader vir mense soos julle wat my pad gekruis het. Wat n eer!

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Baie dankie Denise, die eer is alles myne. Ek waardeur jou en Neil’s se vriendskap. Chantal het my so goed ondersteun, al die jare, en ek dank die Here dat hy vir my so ‘n goeie vrou gegee het. Ek hoop en bid dat dit goed gaan met julle almal. Groete en liefde. Anthony

      Reply
  10. Michael norwitz

    Wow ant well done u and insperation to many
    Will pop in again for a braai like i did a few years back
    Love to all

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Hey Michael great to hear from you, we will be returning to George at the end of this year, it’ll be great to have another braai with you. Still have a pic of the two of us at the braai! Sending love to you all my friend.

      Reply
  11. Fred Norman

    Hi. Anthony
    A great article straight from the Heart..what a remarkable person you are. Your faith has made you whole. Where man doubted you trusted in God. Your family prayed
    So much prayers went up on your behalf. You are truly Blessed..Thank you for been you.

    Reply
    • Anthony Breakey

      Dear Uncle Freddie, you are very kind with your generous words. I’m honoured to call you my family and you and Aunt Gloria will always hold a special place in my heart! I have absolutely no doubt that without my faith and all the prayers offered up for me I would not be alive today. The New Apostolic Church is therefore a major part of the reason I’m still alive. Being served holy communion so many times in hospital and being blessed with the Word has undoubtedly been my saving grace. Sending love and prayers to and for you and the whole family.

      Reply
  12. Eric Lemon

    Wow, wow and wow. God is so good. This great testimony only reached me today. Ironic as I also today received a call from our “not so great” Medical Aid idicating that they are going to pay for what I can now proudly call “our” Apnea machine. Stay well and positive my friend. God has truly blessed you with a beautifull family.

    Reply

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