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22 years of anticipation is finally over for Andrew Davidson


Andrew Davidson spent the last 22 years of his life knowing that at any point in time, he would be undergoing his second open heart surgery. After a complicated diagnosis of ­coarctation (or narrowing) of the aorta, bicuspid aorta and a kink in the ascending aorta, at the age of two, Andrew went in for an open heart surgery at the age of four. During his first surgery at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, the kink in his aorta was removed. Dr Mamorare, who performed Andrew’s surgery this year, was present in his surgical team 22 years ago too. Following on from his first open heart surgery, he attended annual check-ups with his cardiologisit, Dr Dansky. “He monitored my growth to try and delay my surgery until I was in an adult state,” shares Andrew, “because I would then only need one surgery as opposed to needing multiple surgeries”. Before his open heart surgery, Andrew admits to being badly affected. “I had major fatigue and was not able to keep up with others my age,” he says, “after my first surgery, I thought I was fine, but my heart rate would increase excessively with exercise. I also enjoyed playing rugby, against the doctors requests to not play, and would need to be extremely fit to keep up with the game”. It was in 2023 at his annual check-up that the looming decision was made. “Surgery was part of the discussion and two weeks later, Dr Dansky called to say that we needed to do it now and that it would be better to do it sooner rather than later”. Andrew’s surgery date was set as soon as possible. “I had two weeks to prepare from the phonecall until surgery”. “I was extremely scared”, shares Andrew, “I don’t think you would be human if you went into [open heart surgery] without fear. Even though it was inevitable – I had known for twenty years – it still took me by surprise”. Davidson travelled with his fiancé from their hometown, Tzaneen, to Johannesburg on the Sunday before his scheduled surgery on Tuesday. “My brother put his honours degree studies on hold to step in and look after my plumbing business for me,” shares an incredibly grateful and humble Andrew, who acknowledges that without the support system he had and has, he is not sure if he would have been able to cope. Andrew was admitted to hospital one day before his surgery and did not sleep at all, “40% due to nerves and 60% due to a bad roommate,” jokes Andrew, “I thought I was in the Kruger with hippos”. He laughs and then confides that he often handles bad situations with humour. “On the day of surgery, a lot of things were going through my mind,” recalls Andrew, who is only 4 weeks post-surgery now, “you question your mortality and realise that you are not invincible. I was anxious… but the doctors and aneathetist were very professional and calming,, answered all of our questions and thoroughly explained what I was going to go through and what I could expect after surgery. His 5 hour surgery turned into a 7 hour surgery. “It was stressful for my fiancé and immediate family, who luckily live in Jo’burg”. Post-op, Andrew spent a total of 6 days in CTICU. “I wish I could say that there were no complications but unfortunately there were... I was brought out of sedation on Wednesday. I suffer from anxiety and during a physio session – they were massaging my chest – I think I was overthinking things, my blood pressure elevated and I went into cardiac arrhythmia and had to be defibrillated twice. They knew exactly what to do. I was in very, very safe hands. Dr Mamorare and Dansky were down there in a flash and the CTICU nursing staff were incredible. I owe my life to those people.” After one night in general ward, Andrew was discharged with panados as pain killers. “I was very disgruntled to be leaving with panados as my pain killers,” says Andrew, “it was nervewracking to be discharged but the panados actually were very effective and three weeks post-surgery, when I started to become more mobile, I stopped taking them during the day, just to make sure I am not over-exerting. When you first have surgery, even breathing is uncomfortable… I have been really surprised at how quickly you get back on your feet. As I said previously, I also had an amazing support system. It has shown me how lucky I am. “I still have a bit of discomfort around my scar [4 weeks post-op] but every day gets better and better. It’s been a challenge. It’s been eye opening with lots of life lessons in a short time… but it has changed my outlook for the better,” reflects Andrew. “If you are in the position where you surgery like this, I wouldn’t think twice! Dr Mamorare has been incredible and is so professional. The surgery alleviated all anxiety of mine of when will I drop down. Knowing what I know now, if I had to go in again, even with all the complications, I wouldn’t hesitate. My quality of life is upwards from here. In closing Andrew shares a special acknowledgement to Dr Mamorare, Dr Dansky, the other Drs on his team, the nursing staff and his support network. “We all have our own struggles and own difficulties,” shares Andrew, who has certainly overcome his with gratitude and openness in his heart.


 

All images shared with permission.

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