UPDATE: Ian quest for his NEW heart has been put on hold. November 20, 2017 Ian was Diagnosed with Sarcoma Cancer. Because of this diagnoses he had to start Chemotherapy treatment in Mid December 2017 and is expected to have to receive treatment for at the least the next three years to combat the cancer and high risk of recurrence. Please read his story below to understand more of why we are still in hope of a chance at a NEW heart and pray so hard he will get through this hurdle quickly and health maintained. He has beat the odds so far and we are prayerful for his continued endurance. We need your support in however you personally can more than ever. Please pray for continued strength for our HEART HERO turned CANCER WARRIOR!
My name is Ian Weeks and I am 36 years old. I want to share my story with you and the journey I am now on. I was a very active kid; an avid athlete and weight lifter holding an unbreakable weight lifting record at Fayette County High school. I was always the healthy and humorous kid in my family of 8, so there was never a concern about me having any health conditions. Although I have a family history of congenital heart problems, I never thought that any of us could be affected. During that time, a doctor visit just meant a listen to the heart -- if everything sounded ok, you got a clean bill of health.
I must admit that sometimes when I was playing football or lifting weights, I had some dizziness but I always thought it was because I was just going hard or was a little dehydrated. I would not know until many years later that those symptoms meant so much more.
At that time, I had a Primary Care Physician who said not to worry even though I felt faint, things got dark, and I was experiencing other symptoms associated with heart palpitations. As long as there was no pain, he felt I was fine even after being tired, short of breath and almost passing out a few more times over the course of a month. After my 3rd visit to the E.R. in 2 months, extensive testing and a 3-day admittance, I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
I had my 1st pacemaker / defibrillator placement in November 4, 2002, just one day before my son was born. My wife was in labor as I went in to surgery and I knew I had to fight to make it through the surgery because I wanted to be here to welcome my new son. The surgery was a success and the surgeon said I would be as good as new in a few days -- I just had to come back in 7 years to get the batteries changed, and have an occasional echocardiogram to monitor my heart growth. My wife was still in labor, so I was wheeled down and placed in a bed next to hers to see my son being born. What a day of NEW LIFE for me!
Knowing the seriousness of my condition, I maintained a healthy lifestyle. I developed a new attitude about my life -- spiritually, as a husband, father, brother, son -- and physically working out to keep my weight and blood pressure under control. Just 5 ½ years after the placement surgery while I was working out, I blacked out. When I came to I wondered, “What is happening here?” I still had 2 ½ years before my battery change and I had been working out to keep my weight under control, so I just knew it couldn’t be my disease impacting me. My wife scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next week. The day before my doctor’s appointment while I was at work, I had a sharp knee buckling pain in my chest and began to get sweaty and dizzy. I went to the ER only to find out that my device had fired because my heart had stopped.
After that episode my doctor told me that they needed to adjust my device’s pacing speed and that I needed to do less vigorous workouts and pace myself. He really didn’t have any more suggestions and I really didn’t feel like he was providing me with everything I needed to treat my disease because I began to feel worse and was very weak all the time.
In December 2010, I changed doctors and found out that my heart had doubled in size and my pacemaker had died. He scheduled me for emergency surgery. When I alerted my job of the situation, I was terminated. I worried not just because of my health, but also because I had no health insurance at the time. My new doctor told me not to worry about it; he and his team would take care of me - insurance or not. Placement of a new pacemaker was done and they had to add a dual lead to increase the chances of my thickening heart pacing my beat properly. It was a success! I felt great! Bed rest / light rest for six weeks and I was on a new road again.
Two months after my pacemaker was paced, I began to feel a shortness of breath and really winded. My doctor told me I was experiencing Congestive Heart Failure -- a condition where the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the needs of the body, which is common for people with my condition -- I had to be hospitalized. Two weeks after I was discharged, the symptoms reappeared along with heaviness in my chest and I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was admitted for Congestive Heart Failure and this time I also had Atrial Fibrillation (an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body) accompanied with a blood clot in my heart. That hospital visit was the beginning of a series of hospital visits that would result in news that rocked my life. The doctors informed me that my heart condition would not get better, and it could not be fixed through surgery or with medication. I had to have a heart transplant if I wanted to live for many years to come and see my children grow to adulthood.
I have been placed on the transplant list and have been waiting for 3 years now. The average cost for heart transplantation is well over $500,000 - $800,000 and the medications that I will need to sustain my life after the surgery will run between $20,000 and $45,000 per year. I am confident that I will receive a heart soon and be able to accumulate the finances to receive my surgery and maintain the anti-immunity drugs to keep my body healthy after transplantation. I am so THANKFUL for my family, friends, supporters and my medical team!