When I first started the Her Story Project, I knew that it would have an impact and that the kinds of stories I would receive would be inspiring, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for this one! Tina’s story is both profound and thought-provoking. Her story really makes you think about what you value in life, how you spend your time and energy and what you take for granted.
For me it shone a spotlight on the things that should be a priority, and also reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for, the most important of which is my health. Without our health – body, mind and spiritual health, all the other things we strive for in life become null and void. Without these fundamental gifts, we cannot even begin to look for other sources of fulfillment.
I read a quote this morning
“Repeat anything often enough & it will become part of you.” ~ Tom Hopkins
It struck a cord with me. Good or bad, whatever you do on a daily basis will soon shape who you are. Think about that.
When you read Tina’s amazing story of what she’s endured, how she’s overcome those adversities, and how she’s using her experience to affect positive change, think about your own life, your own health, your own body. Do you complain constantly about it? Do you think and talk negatively about it? Do you wish it away? I challenge you to read Tina’s story and see how you can choose to begin acting and thinking differently and more positively about your health and body in particular, on a daily basis.
Meet Tina Beckbessinger
Longest living heart and bilateral lung transplantee in South Africa. Tina currently lives in Kwa-Zulu Natal and is an Inspirational Speaker.
“Born with 3 holes in my heart, a missing tricuspid valve, an irregular and fast heart beat, and narrowed arteries between the heart and lungs, my chance of survival was minimal. As a child I would get tired and out of breath very quickly, especially when trying to join in with physical activity. From age 12, I had to sit out on physical activity all together.
At the age of 14 I suffered heart failure and collapsed. I was rushed to hospital and resuscitated. The heart had been working so hard and grown so large that the cells that carry the electric impulses to make the heart beat had stretched too much to be able to carry an impulse. I was fitted with a pacemaker to ensure that if the natural impulse didn’t happen, a mechanical one would. It took me a long time to recover from the operation and I spent the majority of my Grade 9 year at home.
By the end of Grade 10, I was starting to struggle to get around my large high school, with its multiple stories and buildings. My parents decided it would be best if I was home schooled. I matriculated in 1999 with the IEB.
As many South African matriculates do, I went to England to get some “life experience”. Unfortunately the cold weather and the pollution of London did me no favours. So I headed back home after less than a year.
I began to study Public Relations in 2002, but by the time the second year of my degree course came, I was starting to struggle again. Doctors decided it best to replace my pacemaker. Unfortunately it took me even longer to recover from this operation than the first. In fact, I never returned to my previous physical vigour. The damage to my heart, lungs and other organs was starting to show and take its toll.
I was now starting to sleep more than 18 hours a day and struggled to complete the simple tasks of brushing and washing my hair, bathing, eating and walking. I began to get pains in my chest and had constant headaches. My bone marrow began making more red blood cells to try and get more oxygen into my system, which had the effect of thickening the blood, making it harder for my already damaged heart to pump and for it to move around the body, causing the symptoms I was experiencing. The solution: Venisection (a process of drawing a large amount of blood, in this case 600ml, every six weeks to try and thin it) as well as blood thinning medication and oxygen. Essentially bed bound and dependant on my mum for everything, I decided to shave off my hair as it was too much work and effort just too even brush it every day. On permanent oxygen and using a wheel chair when going out of the house, I had lost quality of life to such an extent that just breathing was a battle. This is when I was listed for transplant, as we had exhausted all other avenues of treatment.
After a wait of 2 and a half years, I received my life saving transplant and became the 6th person in South Africa to receive a heart and bilateral lung transplant. I am currently the longest living person to have had this operation in South Africa. Transplant has changed my life. From being bed bound to living a full and active life. I have taken part in 2 major cycling events, including the 2015 Cape Argus Cycle Tour! It is my goal to promote organ donation in South Africa to make people aware of the difference they can make in someone’s life and to inspire as many people as possible to “Live while you are ALIVE!”
Where do you find your strength and resilience?
In prayer, God, family, friends and other strong, resilient woman.
How are you inspiring positive change today, in yourself and in others?
I am an inspirational speaker and believe that I can change the way people view Organ Donation, their lives and the world around them by sharing my story!
What do you think has the biggest impact on women’s confidence?
Negativity. We live in a world that is overrun by stories of death, violence and catastrophe. These stories although truthful and factual, condition us to believe negative things are all around us and positive things are a lot less likely to happen. Women in particular tend to be over critical of themselves and only view themselves in a negative light. The bad things are easier to believe and the good things are seen as “fairy tales” or near impossible to achieve.
Looking at South Africa today, what role should women play?
Women should play whatever role they feel is their calling.
What would you like to say to young South African women?
Women are logical, sensitive and aware of societies ills. Women in South Africa have the power to heal the past and move our country forward into a bright and magnificent future!
What is your wildly improbable dream for yourself and for our country?
For Organ Donation to become an opt out situation in South Africa instead of opt in as it is now.
How do you think the cultural diversity in South Africa impacts the overall esteem of the average South African woman?
I would hope that with the cultural diversity we have in this country that it would give those women who are suppressed and seen as inferior, the courage to fight for change to their system. Thereby increasing their self esteem and the opinions they have of themselves and their peers.
Each woman has more power than she will ever know, and can change the world around her!
All photos provided by Tina.