#YourStory – Making the most of her second chance after heart transplant

Mrs Whitehead, standing by an inspirational quote painted on her newly constructed office block.

Driving along Edenvale Road towards Van Riebeeck Avenue one might have notice a newly constructed office block constructed on St Dominic.

This is not the corporate venture of a construction business but rather the finished dream of Mrs Marlene Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead (48), a mother, a wife and heart transplant survivor, built the office block to pay tribute to her journey.

In 2012 Mrs Whitehead was diagnosed with a heart condition and was told she would not live very long.

Her two sisters were diagnosed shortly before her.

“I just felt sick. I would get up and feel exhausted,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead, whose sisters recovered from their diagnoses, was told by doctors at the age of 42 that her heart was at 20 percent heart failure.

The medicine which Mrs Whitehead was given was not effective so a pacemaker was put in her chest.

“I went for a second opinion and was told that it was a mistake to put the pacemaker in.

“The doctor told me I was going to die. There was nothing they could do for me,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Marlene was then put on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

“While going through the various panels doing the tests, they tell you all the scary stuff,” said Mrs Whitehead.

She said after hearing all the information, she was uncertain whether or not she wanted the heart transplant.

“I decided that I didn’t want a heart transplant, I felt depressed and stressed so I saw a psychologist who told me I was just overwhelmed,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead said she was worried because she was told the operation was going to take place in Cape Town.

However, after speaking to specialists, Mrs Whiteheads’ files were moved to Milpark Hospital.

While doing her daily routine one morning, Mrs Whitehead received a phone call from the Milpark Hospital.

“The woman asked me if I still wanted a heart (transplant). I went to my family at home and told them ‘there’s a heart for me. Must I take it?’ My family all screamed yes,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead’s completed dream now stands proudly on St Dominic Road.

“I started this project with my family in 2012. I knew I had to survive in order for it to be completed,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead said the project began as a way to leave her mark on the world, as well as in memory of her daughter who died at the age of 14.

“My Son Jarryd, my husband Brian and my ex-husband Brian assisted me,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead’s strong belief in God helped her throughout the process.

“I look at this building and I see my journey. I look where I was and where I am today. God gave me a second chance,” said Mrs Whitehead.

While in recovery from the transplant, Mrs Whitehead said she could not keep still and do nothing.

“I was always wanting to do things, I wanted to get better so that I could make the most of my second chance,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Mrs Whitehead said she aims to build more buildings in the future.

“This journey has changed me, I now appreciate all the little things and take one day at at a time instead of becoming overwhelmed,” said Mrs Whitehead.

Also read: Gauteng residents most at risk of heart disease

Stephan Lehman

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