Lynne and Lauren - EPISODE ONE
Whether or not we have biological children of our own, we are all “Mothers” and we all have the obligation and fierceness that comes with nurturing, loving and protecting our children. This documentary is the story of Lynne Robitaille as journaled and told in her best-selling book,STRENGTH IN A HEARTBEAT following her daughter Lauren's heroic double heart and kidney transplant.
As we go on this journey with Lynne we learn something so vitally important. We learn how to recognize and acknowledge the absolute importance and unfiltered reality of heart health in women – regardless of socioeconomic status, body shape or the ability to pay for much needed medical care and a second chance at life. Lynne's book more than speaks to the power of love and the sheer will and determination that lies within us all. It speaks to our conscience and more importantly, it speaks to and through our hearts and our souls.
As women we've moved mountains empowered one another, protected our loved ones and our families and we've worked very hard to be able to be a positive influence for change as we continue to contribute to the ever-challenging and necessary changes in society in order to cement our place in the world. Unfortunately, we've also been raised to “suck it up” - “say nothing” and “put our own health and well being after everything and everyone else” which has resulted in heart health in women becoming a subject that isn't talked about until it's too late to even begin that kind of a conversation. It's a subject that if discussed, will save lives because when something is pushed under the rug, nothing good can ever come of it. Heart Health is what people don't talk about whether it be out of fear or a lack of knowledge so it doesn't even cross our minds (or our hearts) until it's too late. Not talking about heart health in women is nothing more than remaining in the dark and living in the unknown. As we all know, there is nothing to fear but fear itself and nothing is more debilitating than living in the bubble of fear and when we choose not to address those fears, it polarizes and paralyzes each and every one of us.
Lynne Robitaille and her daughter went for a normal Doctors appointment and within 20 minutes of the usual pleasant greetings in any visit, Lynne was told that her 22-year-old daughter was in heart failure and that she had to be immediately admitted to the Cardiac Wing of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. This was the day that Lynne began to receive “an education by baptismal fire” that she not only never asked for, but that was well above her pay grade. An education that every single woman - and the men and women who love them – are desperately in need of and are being denied.
This the story is about love, hope, sorrow, determination, and dedication to ourselves, our faith and each and every person who is in our lives and whom we love and as difficult as the facts may be to fathom, this the story began with Lynne hearing the words “Lauren needs a new heart.” Words which left her numb and wondering if she was in the middle of her worst nightmare. She was at a loss as to what to do next so she did the only thing she could think of. She began to pray and the more she prayed, the more she bargained with the God of her understanding not to take her daughter from her and the more she heard from the medical and hospital staff, the more she began to pray more and wonder how she'd ever maneuver herself through the difficult process of getting Lauren on the Organ Transplant List not to mention through the transplant itself and then home to a safe and familiar place she knew her daughter would be loved beyond measure. She never thought she'd come to learn that getting on that list was like climbing Mt. Everest in a pair of 4” Jimmy Choo's in the middle of a blizzard.
The first thing Lynne came to learn was that the decision as to whether your child lives or dies rests in the hands of complete strangers who are deemed “qualified” as they alone decide who is worthy of that desperately needed slot on the transplant list and that most people aren't given a place on that coveted list all because of their case doesn't “fit the criteria” - whatever the “criteria” is. Lynne then came to learn how women have been kept in the dark and know virtually nothing about their own heart health and she couldn't understand “why don't more women know about their own heart health? Why aren't women everywhere being empowered and educated as to the many causes of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and SCD (Sudden Cardiac Death) that affects women of all ages? Why is heart disease the number one killer of all women? Why do 1,000 women die daily due to the lack of knowledge about heart health, the lack of care or the lack of finances? Why don't women know that the symptoms they can have when experiencing a heart attack are so different from their male counterparts and that the first time most women know they have heart issues is when they're on a stretcher and on their way into the Cardiac Cath Lab where a cocktail of Fentanyl and Versed is waiting for them?” These questions and 1,000 more swirled around in her head to the point where she realized that there were no answers and that something within our healthcare system just “wasn't right.”
Lynne kept wondering why women were being kept in the dark and what was the universal thread that led them to discount their own hearts and heart health and so, as Lynne silently prayed for a heart for her daughter and for that ever-important call that a heart was available, she also prayed for strength for both herself and the “other mother” she would never get to meet. The mother who, as Lynne would shed tears of joy, would shed tears of sadness and loss as she mourned and made arrangements to bury her child as Lynne's precious daughter was receiving the greatest gift of all, the gift of a new heart and life! How do you thank another mother for allowing your daughter to continue to live and bless your life every moment of every day? Lynne was about to find out.
Lynne and Lauren moved into a hospital room that was to become their new home for 3 years and so, they decorated “their room” to look like and remind them of the home where they could find some comfort and reminders of love and hope. Later, while they took up “residence' in the Cardiac ICU, Mother and Daughter learned to find comfort in the life-giving sounds of cardiac machines became their beeping nightly lullaby. Lynne, being as funny as she innocently is, asked and continued to ask the Nursing Staff if she could have a “deadbolt lock put on their hospital room as she didn't want Lauren's room to become a revolving door.” Needless to say, her request was denied.
While Lauren has now been living the past 6 years as a double heart transplant patient and for the last year, as a kidney recipient, Lynne knows that Lauren's journey isn't over as it now seems as if God has other plans for her as each day she continues to go through life taking over 40 pills just to live and when coupled with a muscle issue known as Laing Distal Myopathy and Scoliosis, make her life a journey of uphill battles into the unknown. While her daughter may not remember a great deal of her experiences due to two induced comas, Lynne remembers it all including the times that her daughter stopped breathing, had nurses sitting and pounding on Lauren's chest as they shouted at her to “breath!” and Lynne will never forget what it was like when her daughter was left to heal with her chest left wide open with bedsores on the back of her head that would later have to be closed through plastic surgery.
Dr. Charles I. Wilmer and his team at Piedmont Heart in Buckhead, Georgia will show us what goes into the process of prioritizing patients and their individual needs and not only getting them through the initial transplant, but getting them home with their families, friends and loved ones. While caring for patients is an everyday occurrence for Dr. Wilmer, both he and his highly skilled team form relationships of the heart and are determined to raise awareness of the importance of heart health for women and the urgency that exists within society as a whole to ensure that all the women we care about and love, are cared for and loved in return.
Other thoughts and perspectives will be shared by celebrities such as Barbara Walters, Miley Cyrus, Rosie O'Donnell, Jenni Garth and Toni Braxton – each of whom has had to go through their own serious heart-related issues and have come out on the other side of them more resilient, stronger and each of whom takes an active role in her own personal life when it pertains to heart health and women.
Lynne Robitaille is “a force to be reckoned with” as she waits to see if her daughter's second heart will be rejected and if she'll need a third transplant and as she does, she's started to pen the sequel to her journey in the hopes that it will continue to inspire and help others and give other women hope – something we all deserve and cherish. In the meantime, Lauren has become a beacon for so many young women and especially millennials -- educating them, laughing with them, drying their tears and most of all, understanding the fears and the challenges that face young women everywhere and did I mention that in July 2019 Lauren's wish became her reality as she became engaged to be married to her high school sweetheart?!
STRENGTH IN A HEARTBEAT is dedicated to women everywhere. Women who will be educated and empowered when it comes to their own heart health and their own futures. Heart Health and Women's Overall Health is dependent on one another and can't be separated, ignored or minimalized.
The all-female production team of STRENGTH IN A HEARTBEAT understands the importance and relevance of this project, especially now and more than ever as they too survived their own heart issues and are committed to making a difference and helping their “heart sisters” everywhere regardless of race, religion, education or sexual preference control their own heart issues and claim their right to live and move forward with dignity as each and every woman affected by heart issues asks for her own chance to discover and embrace, her own STRENGTH IN A HEARTBEAT.
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