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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After eight years of treatments for various heart conditions, an assistant principal at M.A. Milam K-8 Center in Hialeah has received a life saving transplant.

Erika Carter-Rolle’s troubles began in late 2006 with a bad cold that wouldn’t go away. A few months later, in January 2007, she was was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy- a condition, in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weaker, and often leads to heart failure.

Over the ensuing years, Carter-Rolle suffered a stroke, had several mini-strokes and finally had to have a pacemaker put in to re-synchronize her heart rhythms.

“Patients receive this once heart failure is very advanced but it is only a temporary fix,” said Dr. Matthias Loebe, a transplant surgeon with the University of Miami Health System (UHealth).

While walking around school earlier this year in February, Carter-Rolle found herself struggling to breathe and realized something was seriously wrong. Soon after, her doctors told her she needed a heart transplant and was put on the transplant list.

“While she was waiting for the transplant her condition got worse. We eventually put her on one of the mechanical hearts,” said UHealth cardiologist Dr. Sandra Chaparro.

Carter-Rolle said she never imagined she would be diagnosed with heart failure before finishing her doctorate.

“It was something that I had to accept. I had to regroup and once I did that, I said bring it on,” said Carter-Rolle. “I’m a warrior and I’m going to make it through this and I did.”

She waited for a year and a half before getting word that doctors had found a match.

On October 30th, the day Carter-Rolle calls her “second birthday,” UHealth transplant surgeons performed a four-hour successful heart transplant at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“I feel that it is a miracle and I will be forever grateful,” said Carter-Rolle.

“It was tough, I didn’t know if she was gona be around,” said Erika’s husband Carlos Rolle. “But she’s here now and I want to keep her for another 50 years. I’m just happy.”

Carter-Rolle was the 17th successful heart transplant this year by the Miami Transplant Institute at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She said she’s thankful each time she feels it beat.

“I’m grateful but instead of waiting for Thanksgiving to be grateful, this process has taught me to be grateful for every second of my day,” said Carter-Rolle.

Carter-Rolle said she hopes to be able to meet the family of the donor whose heart she received so she could thank them for her second chance at life.

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