Heather nearly died three times, but still would not give up. And, it was the never-say-die spirit of this heart transplant patient and die-hard Bon Jovi fan that prompted Jon Bon Jovi himself to send her a gift.
“Receiving a gift from my favorite artist gave me hope, inspiration and even a greater appreciation for life,” says Heather Royhl, who, these days, is putting a decidedly different spin on the well-known Bon Jovi tune, You Give Love a Bad Name. “Nothing bad about it,” she says. “Having Bon Jovi express his concerns about me in that way was truly a great experience.”
Today, Royhl, 42, of Chicago, feels she is still only “halfway there” in her recovery, because only a couple years have passed since she received her new heart at Advocate Christ Medical Center, and just recently did she return to work.
“The mortgage underwriter told me I am now strong enough to work now,” says Royhl. “I feel like a productive member of society again. Getting my old life back never has felt better, and I’m so thankful.”
Royhl first came to Christ Medical Center in cardiogenic shock in February 2013. She required treatment for viral cardiomyopathy, an infected heart muscle that was restricting blood flow in her body. Her cardiology team also discovered that Royhl has a rare blood-clotting condition, which presented a myriad of other obstacles for her to overcome. She later survived multiple infections and a stroke before undergoing heart transplant surgery on July 5, 2013, at Christ Medical Center.
“She had everything,” says Gregory Macaluso, M.D., cardiologist on the medical center’s heart transplant team. “Her clotting condition eventually led to a stroke, which resulted in kidney failure. She also developed a respiratory infection. She definitely required an unconventional treatment plan, but Heather would not give up.”
Eventually, Royhl received a temporary heart pump, which put her back on the road to recovery. Her aggressive rehabilitation sessions spanned a period of months. Doctors were amazed. Royhl overcame what seemed the impossible and made a “dramatic recovery.” She finally became well enough to be listed as a candidate for a heart transplant.
During her hospital recovery following a successful transplant, she lamented that Bon Jovi was in Chicago again – she even was holding a concert ticket — and that his concert would be the first time she had missed one while he was in town. Bon Jovi and his band learned about her fan loyalty and her predicament and sent her a special delivery package, a one-of-a-kind, 6-foot-long poster, which he signed, “Heather, sorry we missed you, see you next time!”
“I’ve attended all of his past concerts in Chicago, and I’m so glad that the band cared that much to acknowledge me,” said Royhl. “Now, every morning before work, I listen to their tune, Have a Good Day. It makes me feel awesome.”