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After ‘hell,’ Witless Bay family thankful for blood donors

After undergoing a heart transplant in 2016, Tyler Rideout, 26, is feeling great today. He says he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for organ and blood donors.
After undergoing a heart transplant in 2016, Tyler Rideout, 26, is feeling great today. He says he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for organ and blood donors. - Juanita Mercer

Tyler Rideout recently returned from a hunting trip with his father — they didn’t get their moose, but given what they’ve both been through over the past few years, it’s not a big deal.

They’re both thankful to be alive.

Tyler, now 26, was only 21 years old on July 27, 2014, when his heart began to fail.

The Witless Bay native went to St. Clare’s Hospital in an ambulance, but there was nothing they could do.

An air ambulance took him to the Ottawa Heart Institute, where he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy — an enlarged heart.

He needed a transplant, but he had to wait. In the interim, he had a defibrillator implanted.

Over the next couple of years, he had several complications, culminating in February 2016 when his organs began to shut down and doctors performed emergency surgery to implant a left ventricle assist device to keep his heart pumping until a donor heart became available.

Tyler received his first blood transfusion at that time and was told he had to remain in Ottawa until he could get a new heart.

A man of few words, the most Tyler would say about that time in his life was that it was “hell.”

An avid outdoorsman, being stuck in a city was “rough” for him, he said.

Worse, his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the same time.

“It was a hard time for the family,” recalls Tyler’s mother, Alanna Rideout.

She remained in Ottawa with Tyler while her husband went for radiation treatments in St. John’s.

By Oct. 20 that year, Tyler got the long-awaited call and was in surgery for a new heart the next morning.

He received two more blood transfusions during that surgery.

Without those transfusions, “he wouldn’t be with us today,” said Alanna.

“Thank God there is Canadian Blood Services, thank God there is the Heart Institute and thank God for the donors,” she said. “These people are prepared for people like us that aren’t, and they make us aware of the need for it.

“When you don’t have your health, this is who you’re going to rely on — organ donation, blood services. You need these people.”

Through Tyler’s experience, people in the Witless Bay area saw the importance of donating blood. While he was recovering, people from across the Southern Shore turned up for a blood drive in his honour at the Bay Bulls Regional Lifestyle Centre.

The surgery went well and Tyler and Alanna were back in Witless Bay for Christmas that year.

“It was the best Christmas that I can remember,” said Alanna. “My husband beat cancer, and my son got a heart transplant.”

Tyler goes for his two-year checkup on Oct. 29.

He said he feels great today, and is hoping to get the go-ahead to return to work again soon.

In the meantime, the whole family is grateful for people who donate blood. Without those donors, Tyler’s family could be telling a different story today.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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