Suddenly at 27 yo I got sick with what felt like bronchitis or pneumonia. I coughed constantly at night for a month, couldn’t sleep at all, felt exhausted, started to get out of breath when I walked to my apt from my car, and basically just tried to survive while working during August of 2017. I went to the doctor 5X and was told bronchitis, sinusitis, allergies, indigestion, and pneumonia. Finally on the 6th visit I begged a dr to take a deeper look because I knew my body and I knew I still wasn't well. (Most of the other drs seemed not to believe I was sick because I appeared young and healthy other than my symptoms of coughing at night that prevented sleep.) I told him I’d begun to cough up blood ....and my feet/legs were swelling (which I thought was due to to the steroids I was previously prescribed). I had to ask the dr to give me an ekg and another chest x-ray. He ran the tests and quickly said “your ekg was abnormal and your heart is enlarged. There’s ‘fluffy’ stuff on your lungs and you need to go to the hospital.”
It was Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. Little did I know my whole world was about to change and there’s nothing I could’ve done or could do to prevent it as I responded, “Are you sure? I’m on my lunch break from work?”... lol (I want to add that I am thankful for all my wonderful co-workers that helped me to get to these dr visits and encouraged me through being sick for so long.) Dr rushed me out and I went to EAMC. I was just glad it felt like I was about to finally get answers.
They quickly did an EKG, chest X-ray, blood tests and I was hooked up to IVs to start removing fluid around my heart. I felt I was shielded from the seriousness of my critical condition as they were focused on transporting me but they informed me my heart was failing and I was going to be air-lifted by jet to UAB! Again I was in shock because I always stayed so healthy and began to ask for how long? I have to get back to work? What does this mean?
I was awake for the airlift and honestly I thank God for that experience. The transport team said most of their patients were usually unconscious on the ride. The transport team told me to look out at Jordan-Hare Stadium when we passed over. I arrived at UAB Heart and Lung Transplant ICU. After more extensive tests...Echocardiogram, CT scan, X-rays, more bloodwork..they found that the ventricles of my heart were not effectively pumping blood out causing blood to swirl and it to enlarge. My heart was the size of a cantaloupe taking up room down to my ribs when it should’ve been the size of an apple. I quickly realized my whole life was about to change and it came crashing down honestly.
I was told something “Viral” RANDOMLY attacked my heart. I had a blood clot on both sides of my heart and a blood clot in my lungs. I believe God allowed my condition to become so critical because it landed me 1A priority on the donor list. I was informed it’s recommended that I never have children, that I couldn’t be around my cat at least a year, I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until I got a heart and recovered (which has taken years for some), and that my life would never be the same. I wanted to walk outside the unit (well honestly, escape haha) but they were so afraid if I got down the hallway they wouldn’t be able to save my life if something happened. I was that close to dying and didn’t even know it other than feeling exhausted and not being able to sleep from coughing which does take a toll on you after weeks.
Y’all, through the miracles of God, the support from my family and friends (my mom hasn’t left my side), the love and prayer from my community of people, Church of the Highlands, the AMAZING care and miracle work of nurses/drs/surgeons, The Alabama Organ Center, and most importantly THE DONOR AND HER FAMILY I got a heart transplant 3.5 weeks after being listed.
I cannot describe to you what a miracle I’ve witnessed, how I feel completely brought to life again—physically, mentally, spiritually, how I’m already walking 1-2 miles 3 &4 days post-transplant, how every detail has worked out for good, and how THANKFUL I am for this second chance at life I didn’t know I would need. The word “gratitude” doesn’t do justice. Can you imagine if my donor’s family had refused to donate her organs???? Or if she’d decided not to check organ donor while getting her DL?? I beg of you guys to please go online and sign up so you can save someone like me. Because my donor saved my life when neither of us had a choice in what happened to us. If you want to know more:
I serve a God that loves to turn things like this around for his glory and he is rocking my world. It just now feels weird to be on the asking end of help because I am not able to do the things I want to for others and myself that I used to. I have to attend clinic doctor visits twice a week with chest X-rays, blood work, Echocardiogram, meet with pharmacy (I take over 30 prescriptions daily so my body doesn’t reject the heart which without insurance can cost over $2,000 monthly with insurance), a heart catheter (where they go inside your heart and take a biopsy), a coordinator, cardiac rehab therapy.. I have to wear a medical mask covering my mouth and nose in public for at least 6 weeks since my immune system is weakened due to the anti-rejection meds and multiple other details I won’t bore you with. In summary, I’ve got to do everything in my power to take care of this new heart God and my donor have gifted me with that’s given me a second chance at life which will be quite costly. Medical bills, living expenses, regular medical procedures, medications, insurance, and bills add up quickly when you’re unable to work so any little bit helps.
The one thing I hope you’ll receive that I have gotten from my journey is don’t take life for granted. Don’t get wrapped up in your day to day to forget to appreciate that you are alive and well, to call your family/friends just to tell them you love them, to feel the breeze when you drive your car since you don't have to walk, to take care of your precious body, to look at the sunset, to savor each bite of great food... Live your life to the fullest and be grateful for every tiny thing that each day brings you because tomorrow isn’t promised. God has so much for you to experience if you’ll let him and stop to smell the roses in the midst of this crazy life.
So if you want to know what you can do for me you can embrace life for the gift it is not taking anything for granted... :) Maybe going online to be an organ donor if you’re not already? I know I won’t need them when I’m gone but the least I can do is try to save a life in the process. Again, any prayers you could send up or any bit of donation (the Lord knows I need it!) helps me out tremendously. I’m so thankful for you. Feel free to share or reach out. I’m now released from the hospital (sweet sweet freedom) with limitations and trying to stay afloat during the process but grasping this opportunity for everything it’s worth! I love y’all.
The IV I had to wear before transplant so they could easily draw blood/give me meds
They let me visit with Pacino for a minute before transplant :(
My nurse told me the white portion was my enlarged heart. I have an actual picture of a portion of my old heart but figured you guys could go without seeing that! :)
Any little thing is entertainment in the hospital while trying to stay positive and wait for a transplant...clowns, bingo, sherbert, crosswords, Super Nintendo
3 days post-transplant below!
My face wasn't gray anymore and other than alllll the battle wounds and things still attached to me I felt great!
This was before my 2nd heart catheter post-transplant.
Still learning to play guitar because it's always been a dream of mine! -Music Therapy
Resource: “How Much Does Transplant Cost?” By Jim Murrell
- Jacob Haynes
- LaRita Carter-Brigham
- Olivia Hollis
- Peggy Harris
- Brittany Bailey
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