Elise’s Story

Elise Kwan is an up-beat girl from Crowsnest Pass and she is the first person to have both sides of her heart kept alive by separate machines.

At six months old, Elise began showing signs of fatigue and loss of appetite. Her doctor was very concerned with Elise’s condition and consulted with specialists in Calgary. They decided to transfer Elise immediately.

She was diagnosed with a disorder where her bone marrow does not produce red blood cells, which means that she required monthly blood. At six years old, Elise was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition that causes the heart to race. Elise’s heart rate sometimes reached 320 beats per minute.

Through the years, Elise was frequently hospitalized for asthma, pneumonia, allergies, colds and more. Through this hardship, Elise embraced her life by swimming, dancing, snowboarding, hiking and quadding while consistently making the honor roll.

In June 2013, Elise began to feel ill again. A blood test showed that her sugars were high. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. After training for diabetes management, Elise seemed to improve. At the end of July, Elise went back to her local doctor complaining of fatigue, shortness of breath and a high heart rate. On August 2, she was airlifted to Edmonton for surgery.

Elise’s family found a home away from home at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta when Elise was transferred to Edmonton. Her mother Vandy, who owned River Ridge Family Restaurant in Crowsnest Pass, was most often found in the kitchen, preparing a meal for Elise, House guests and staff. Whenever Vandy saw that there was no meal group, she would cook a lovely Vietnamese meal for everyone. Though she no longer owns her restaurant due to the challenges in Elise’s health, the kitchen is still therapeutic for Vandy.

On September 26, Elise’s doctors installed a Berlin Heart. She was still feeling unwell after the installation. Her breathing became laboured and fluid developed in her lungs. Elise was placed on life support and a smaller Berlin Heart was installed on the right side of her heart, with a HeartMate Unit installed on the left side.

One surgery has turned into five as Elise’s heart had difficulty adjusting to the removal of the Berlin Heart machinery, and insertion of a new HeartWare unit where the HeartMate had once been.

Elise dreams of becoming a nurse. She worries about everybody else’s needs and well-being before her own.

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