Kelli was born with a genetic heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Nearly every member of her family has it: her grandmother, her mother, her aunt, four out of five of her siblings, both her kids and her three-year old grandson.
Kelli required medication and cardiac care from a young age. She was diagnosed as a teenager and her first pacemaker was implanted when she was 18, then she was switched over to an implantable cardioverter defribrillator (ICD) years later. Several ICD, lead and medication changes later, her heart health eventually started to decline. She had to give up her favorite outdoor activities including hiking and going to the beach with her family. Eventually, she couldn’t even dress herself in the morning without it becoming a painful, breathless chore.
He sent Kelli to the transplant team up in Los Angeles for evaluation and a rigorous series of tests. Within five months, she was put at the top of the list for a heart transplant.
After a one-month stay at the hospital, Kelli received her transplant on Jan. 18, 2013. Her grandson, Otto, was born a week after her transplant, and she’s grateful the transplant allowed her an opportunity to watch him grow up.
Kelli doesn’t know much about her heart donor — only that he was a 25-year old male. But given the opportunity, she would love to meet his family and thank them in person.
“They gave me life,” said Kelli. “They gave me the ability to hold my grandson. All I can say is ‘thank you.’ There’s just no way to thank somebody enough for giving you life.”