We were recently contacted by a young transplant recipient, Allyssa Prinzi, who asked to share her personal story. First, we asked her an important question:
Alyssa, what does being a PowerPlayer mean to you?
A PowerPlayer is someone who isn’t afraid to take action for themselves and for others. Creating awareness of the act of organ donation takes a strong person who isn’t afraid to face differences of opinion and is able to educate others about organ donation and transplantation. We need to support our doctors, transplant coordinators, nurses, and all the other healthcare professionals who deal with this sensitive subject every day, as well as the public relations and media professionals who present the facts to the public. Because of these dedicated men and woman I am alive today, able to tell my story, and have become a PowerPlayer myself to help raise awareness for this life-saving cause.
Alyssa then shared her inspiring story with us:
For years I had been suffering with intermittent chest pain. Because I was only in my late 20s, I didn’t really think anything of it. I made appointments to see a few doctors and get checked out, and when nothing alarming came out of those doctors’ visits, I carried on like any other 28-year-old. I was living in Chicago, going out with my friends and working on the glamorous Oak Street, unaware that this heaviness on my chest was slowly affecting my heart function.
Deep down inside I felt something was off, and made a decision to move back to New York. The chest discomfort was getting worse and within a year of being back home with all my family and friends I was diagnosed with severe vasospasms. Things started to progress very quickly at that point. Within months I had a defibrillator implanted in my chest and numerous stents placed in my arteries to open up blockages. After months in the hospital, trying every medical therapy possible, I was not getting better: my heart was failing. On May 28, 2010 my heart gave up; the next thing I knew I was being rushed for open heart surgery to get a device placed around my heart called a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). The LVAD is a heart pump which takes over the action of the heart by pumping blood from the left ventricle to the aorta and then out to the rest of the body. I went home about ten days after that surgery and was immediately placed on the heart transplant list. Now it was time to wait for the phone call that would change my life forever.
Months had gone by, summer had ended, and my birthday had come and gone. Fall, my favorite time of year, had changed to winter. At this point it was hard not to think that each of those occasions may have been my last. I remember celebrating New Year’s Eve with close family and friends that year, and when the ball dropped and 2011 was upon us I made a wish that this would be my year. I prayed that night for a new heart to come soon, and after years of suffering and uncertainty my wish came true. On January 2, 2011, just a day after making that wish, the phone rang and my new heart was here.
After a 12-hour surgery I woke up to see every family member and friend I had standing over me. My surgeon, with the perfect hands, was there with the most beautiful smile that lit up the room. I remained in the hospital for several weeks, and with all the love and support one could imagine, I finally went home to start the greatest journey of my life. The road to an amazing recovery was about to begin.
January 2014 will be three years since my heart transplant. During this time I met an amazing man, we have travelled, I moved to Long Island and am pursuing a career in Cardiovascular Technology. This past July, in front of all my friends and family, we got engaged. Now I’m juggling school with planning a wedding. The wedding date has officially been set for New Year’s Eve 2014!
I have learned, been inspired and am grateful for so much in my life. I learned what being strong really means. I learned that you just never know what is waiting for you around the corner, so why wait. Invest in your life, take that chance and strive for happiness.
I am forever indebted to the donor family who gave me this new chance at life. Words cannot express how grateful I am to them. Their selfless act has given me all these amazing opportunities and opened up so many new doors for me that a few years ago I would have never dreamed possible. So I encourage everyone out there to become an organ donor. Hopefully my story and the countless other stories like mine inspire you to save a life.
A PowerPlayer is anyone who supports the life-saving cause of organ donation and transplantation, from the patients who receive transplants, to the donors and their families who make those transplants possible, to the medical professionals who arrange and perform the life-saving miracle of transplantation. They serve to remind us that we all have the Power2Save lives.