Margie Le Grice was a fit, healthy and active young mother. She was in her last year of teacher training in Christchurch and on a school placement in Auckland when she was laid low by the 'flu.
Her illness lingered, so she decided a trip to the doctor was in order. She delivered her son to Kohanga Reo and went to the appointment.
The doctor's visit didn't go well. Margie was told the 'flu had damaged her heart, that her left ventricle was damaged and that without a heart transplant, her life expectancy was 6-12 months.
"I was in shock. I'd never been that sick so I couldn't understand how this could be true. I thought nah this can't be right, if I go to the hospital they'll fix it," she says.
Instead, she was put on the fast track waiting list for a new heart and so began a year-long waiting game.
Margie's health deteriorated and her days revolved around summoning the energy to get out of bed in the morning to get her son ready for Kohanga Reo, returning to bed for the day to sleep and attempting to be up to welcome her son home in the afternoon.
"That was my life for 11 months. It was totally soul destroying. I was watching my family watching me literally die before their eyes," Margie says.
The phone call to say a heart was available came one afternoon when Margie's husband was out.
"When our son was about to be born, we had a code word "It's time". So when I rang my husband that's all I said. I think my reaction surprised people, I was very calm. We were prepared for the worst but hoping for the best."
After an eight-hour surgery, Margie once again had a healthy heart.
"My own heart valves were healthy so the surgeons were able to retrieve them for someone else. I thought, I'm getting someone's heart so the least I can do is to give someone my valves."
Three months later after rest, recuperation and learning how to manage her new heart, Margie returned home.
"This is my second chance at life so I look at it a bit differently now. When I took on the heart, I took on the responsibility of keeping myself healthy and doing the right thing."
It's a promise that Margie is keeping - she's a full-time teacher, does Tae Kwando and coaches both soccer and basketball. She is also her school's Kapa Haka tutor.
"Life is full," she says, in a very understated way.
She doesn't know the details of her donor and hasn't asked.
"I send cards on the anniversary of my transplant and for the holiday season and remain very grateful for my precious gift of life."
Margie believes that while cultural and religious factors will always make the decision to donate a loved ones organs hard for some people, remembering that the person they have lost lives on in their memory is the key to securing more donors.
"The person they are losing is still within themselves," she says.
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