Community Health Center Real Stories
I’m the girl who would be dead if I hadn’t received a new heart. That may be blunt, but it’s the truth, and now my goal is to spread the word about the importance of organ donation. I’m a huge advocate for organ donation, volunteering much of my time with CORE, the Center for Organ Recovery & Education.
When I was 9, my brother and I got pneumonia. When we went in for chest x-rays, the radiologist saw something on the film and told my parents I needed to see a cardiologist. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, the result of a disease called restrictive cardiomyopathy, in which the heart stiffens and doesn’t pump blood effectively. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office for hours just wanting to go back to school. The doctors told my parents that while my condition was serious, it wasn’t yet life-threatening, and so they would keep a close eye on me.
Even though I was told there was something wrong with me, I didn’t really believe it because I was such an active kid, always playing sports, swimming and running around with my friends. And though I would get winded running or climbing stairs, I thought everyone else did, too. It was normal for me. So I continued this way for another two years until around age 11, when I went back to Pittsburgh for a checkup. The doctors told my parents that my condition had worsened, and it was time for me to be placed on the transplant list. I remember my parents in tears coming out of the meeting with the doctors. But still I was in denial that I needed a new heart. Actually, I was angry! I was invincible in my mind, even though I was actually pretty sick.
The call came on May 4, 2007. During a lengthy surgery, I received the heart of a 31-year-old male. I am absolutely healthy and have been feeling great ever since the transplant. I play sports, such as tennis, and never get winded anymore. It is so awesome that I was given a second chance to live.
I want everyone around me to be an organ donor, so I spend a lot of time as a CORE advocate, speaking at health fairs, making appearances at community events, and even lecturing in the health classes at my school.
The reality is, I wouldn’t be here without my donor. Even though I don’t know his name, I feel I know him already, and I want to make him proud. I’m known as the girl who received a heart transplant, and that’s OK with me. But I also want to be known as the girl who made a difference.