Gwendolyn’s story

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I am a survivor—a survivor of cancer, heart failure, multiple cardiac surgeries, a left ventricular assist device and a heart transplant. My journey would not have been possible without blood donation. Before I was even listed for a heart transplant, I needed 30 units of blood transfused just to survive.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and the day before my 21st birthday, I began my cancer treatments. The radiation I received saved my life, but left some scarring and in 2008, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a prolapsed mitral valve (damaged heart valve). For the most part, with proper diet, medication and regular doctor visits, my heart conditions were kept under control.

In 2012, I married my soulmate and started a new job. With my health looking up, we dared to dream of expanding our family! Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. In May 2013, on a regular day at work, I felt ill and my fingers tingled. Since I’d had similar episodes before, I stayed calm and asked a colleague to drive me to the ER to get it checked out. I fully expected to be back at work the next day. However, I found out later that I had gone into end stage heart failure and wouldn’t be going back to work anytime soon. In fact, I haven’t gone back yet. In an instant, all my hopes and dreams seemed shattered.

After numerous surgeries, blood transfusions, life support, learning how to walk and eat again, and over two months in the hospital, I was able to go home with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The LVAD helped me survive while I waited for my heart match.

I implore everyone in the world to donate blood, learn about organ donation and transplantation, make a decision based on facts and humanity, and share your choice with your loved ones. I am only here because heroes like you said yes to donation—yes to a local blood drive, yes on the organ donation form and yes to saving the lives of others. I thank you for saying yes, from the bottom of my brand new heart. You are all heroes. You save lives like mine. No cape required.

Register to come an organ donor with Donate Life Virginia here.

Learn more about how blood donation is tied to organ transplants here.