Supporting someone with an artificial heart

Jim Lynskey, 21, lives with an LVAD, which can make life difficult. But his family - mum Collette, dad Gerry, and siblings Grace and Joe, have always been there to support him. 

Jim Lynskey with twin sister Grace and mum Collette

Jim with his twin sister Grace (left) and mum Collette (right).

Collette remembers waiting anxiously for Jim to do the things normal babies do, so they could be sure that he was alright. “We just had to wait for the development milestones,” she says. “That was the only way to tell how he was. The day that he smiled, when he was about six weeks old, I was on the phone that fast to Jim’s dad like ‘Oh my god, he smiled, he smiled!’ It was such a big moment, I can still remember exactly where he was and even what he was wearing.”

Impact on family life

Family milestones have been affected by Jim’s health, like the Christmas when he was 17 years old and weighed just seven stone. Collette, who works part time so she can be there for her son, says: “We went to watch the panto... with a saucepan in case he was sick. Soon after, it was my 50th birthday party. Jim was so poorly but didn’t let on, he didn’t want to spoil my day.”

I dream of a day when Jim has a successful transplant

Recently, the family decided to treat themselves to a cruise, but Jim’s LVAD attracted unwanted attention from staff and passengers. “He’s got his computer, all his batteries, and wires, which can be carried in a vest,” Collette explains. “Of course, as soon as you’ve shown them what the situation is, they’re mortified.”

Collette finds it difficult to watch her son struggling, and wishes she could take his place. “This part of my life can’t be put into words,” she says. “The extreme worry, the sleepless nights, the sick feeling – it’s in your every waking hour.”

Jim suffers from nightmares at the moment, and on bad nights his mum will sit with him. “We’ll talk about how hard it is, and our hope that life could be better with a heart,” he says.

Pride and hope

His mum is very proud of him, and says she’s trying to stay upbeat. “There are highs and lows, but sadly more lows than highs,” says Collette. “I remain optimistic; I have to. I dream of a day when Jim has a successful transplant and he can travel and have fun, be ‘normal’, get a job, a girlfriend, maybe even have kids... the simple things we all take for granted. Just to have a life!”

More useful information