MIAMI (CBS) – April is National Donate Life Month, reminding us of the enormous need for organ donation.
Last year, more than 41,000 transplants were performed, giving new life to patients, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. That includes one remarkable woman who is now back in the game.READ MORE: Man's Remains Found In Shallow Grave Behind Miami Gardens Home, Woman Arrested
Jennifer Mayadas-Dering is an electrical engineer, a wife, a mom, and a world-class professional racquetball player. She has always had the heart of a champion. But last year, she learned she needed a new heart.
“How could this happen to me? I felt I was playing the role in somebody else’s story,” she said.
Outside, she looked healthy, but she felt something was wrong. Doctors diagnosed her with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a dangerously weak heart muscle.
“A lot of her symptoms were hard to kind of tease out because she was otherwise in good shape. But, you know, when I saw her, I looked at her, examined her, I knew that things were not good,” said Dr. Alan Glass of the Department of Cardiology at Westchester Medical Center.
“The day they told me I needed a heart transplant was shocking. But at that point, it was about surviving,” Jennifer said.READ MORE: Surfside Condo Collapse: Former Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey Confident Everything Was Done By Rescuers To Save Lives
She had a three-week wait in the hospital. Then in April 2021, received her new heart. Dr. Masashi Kai performed the five-hour procedure at Westchester Medical Center in New York.
“It’s not just life-saving, also it can change the quality of life like Jennifer,” said Dr. Kai.
Jennifer says she couldn’t wait to get back on the court, saying, “I was champing at the bit.” Just three months after surgery, she picked up her racket. And a year later, she’s showing no mercy.
She’s beaten a rejection scare and a COVID-19 infection and knows she has this second chance to play, to live, because of a donor.
“I wake up every day thinking about her, thinking about her family and who she was,” Jennifer said.
Back in the game, with all her heart and soul.MORE NEWS: Miami-Dade Commissioners Propose Safety Measures After Tragedy On Rickenbacker Causeway
Jennifer’s mother died waiting for an organ transplant. More than 100,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. If you want to register to be a donor, go to registerme.org.