Noelle Ciccone

February 24, 2023

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Hockey fan marks 21st birthday thanks to long-ago tissue donor

There’s no better time than American Heart Month to celebrate a milestone birthday made possible by the generous donation of a heart valve.

Noelle Ciccone, who turns 21 this month, was born with truncus arteriosus, a birth defect of the heart. It occurs when the blood vessel coming out of the heart in the developing baby fails to separate completely during development, leaving a connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery.

Ciccone, of Pittsburgh, required surgery when she was just a few weeks old and again when she was 9 to receive a heart valve from a donor.

“Others don’t always realize how big of an impact that one tiny valve can have on your life, but without it, I probably would have died, so even donating tissue can be life and death,” she said. “If I could meet my donor’s family, I definitely would thank them and tell them that I am sorry for their loss.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins fan and Youngstown State psychology student hope to move on to graduate school to study sports psychology. Her dream job is working as a sports psychologist for the National Hockey League.

In addition to clearly being a sports fan, she’s a big fan of organ and tissue donation.

“It is something that people don’t always think about,” she said. “I would be happy to know that when I die, I could help someone else.”