I lived a healthy, normal life until I was thirteen. When I was at swim practice one day, I felt an intense pain in my chest and knew I had to get out of the pool immediately. I collapsed when I got out of the pool and an ambulance came to take me to the hospital. I was awake for only part of that ride and luckily we were able to make it to Primary Children’s Hospital before my heart stopped. The ER trauma team performed CPR for over an hour and I was put on life support. As I started to wake up from my medically induced coma a week and a half later, a lot of things did not make sense to me. The doctors told me that I was born with a congenital heart defect that is super rare and can only be detected with a heart cath procedure. I had suffered a heart attack and my heart was not strong enough to function on its own. I was on so many machines and medications, there were tubes everywhere. Everything I thought I knew about myself felt wrong. I was so weak I couldn’t lift my head up.
After three months of trying to regain strength and four heart surgeries, I got to go home with a wearable defibrillator. After a month and a half of being home, the doctors determined my heart was not doing as well as they hoped and I was given a PICC line with medicine and put on the heart transplant list. The thought of a heart transplant was too huge, too terrifying to me.
I didn’t have much energy and attending school was difficult. It was hard to be in a school setting where I felt like I could not relate to the people around me. I was hospitalized several times to raise my dose of IV medication, because my heart was increasingly struggling. When my other organs started to fail, I finally had to admit to myself that my heart wasn’t going to get better and that the only thing that could save me would have to be a gift from someone else.
After three months of being on the transplant list, I was hospitalized because my stomach wasn’t digesting food properly and I felt sick all the time. After waiting in the hospital for about a month with my health progressively getting worse, my doctors came in and told me that they found a heart match for me! I felt so many emotions all at once, but gratitude and hope were among the most profound. I had another chance at life! Another chance at doing the things I hadn’t been able to do and didn’t know if I would ever be able to do again.
It was nerve wracking to go into my transplant surgery, but I clung to faith, hoping that I would wake up and there wouldn’t be any complications. When I woke up I felt a huge difference! I felt like I could breathe again. A week later I walked the farthest I had during my hospital stay. The doctors sent me home after just a week and a half.
After I recovered, I lived my life to the fullest. When I got the okay that I could swim again, I got back in the water. It was terrifying, but I love swimming and it felt good to be back. With the assurance of a strong, perfect heart, I competed in the 2018 Transplant Games of America and joined my High School swim team. Since then I’ve been raising awareness for organ donation. Helping other people who may be in a similar position helps me to cope. I’ve had many meaningful experiences including being the keynote speaker for the 2019 American Heart Association’s Ball and being the featured story for the ‘Here Kids Win’ campaign for Primary Children’s Hospital.
It’s been four years since my heart transplant and I am feeling great! I can’t even begin to express all that I have learned and gained from it. I’ll forever be grateful for my heart donor. To anyone struggling, I would say keep going! Hold on to hope and the things that make you the person you are. Life is really hard sometimes, but I’ve found that there are always good times mixed in with the bad. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, because there will be extraordinary things that come from it.

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