My Story

My name is Rebecca. I am 34 years old. I decided to do this particular page in 2001 so people could get an idea of what has happened in my life the past few years. It has since been revised. My hope is that people might gain knowledge, understanding, and inspiration from my story.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma until 1981 when my mom and myself moved to Scio, Oregon. I attended schools in Scio and Salem until high school, when we moved to Newport, OR. I attended Newport High School until the end of my sophomore year when I moved to Corvallis. I played basketball, volleyball, softball, and soccer throughout junior high and high school. I really enjoyed athletics. I also played in the band all throughout school. I graduated in June 1990. I truly miss all the friends I made while living in Oregon.
In July 1994, I moved back to Oklahoma City. In January 1995, I enrolled in the psychology degree program at Oklahoma City Community College. It turned out to be a major life-changing event. I learned many things, especially about myself, and met some great people. I enjoyed college. However, the last 8 months of my degree were difficult. I received my Associate of Arts in May 1998.

In 1992, I was diagnosed with arrhythmias, and ventricular tachycardia, known as an extremely rapid heart beat. I didn't have any major problems until August 1997. At that time, I had a tachycardiac episode in which my heart was going over 280 beats a minute. The cardiologists did tests and determined I had congestive heart failure. My ejection fraction was less than 30%. Despite the news, I continued to attend college and work full-time. In August 1998, I received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which is similar to a pacemaker.
In October 1998, I transferred to Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, in an attempt to complete a Bachelor's degree in family studies and gerontology. In March 1999, I quit work. I quit school in October 1999.

In April 2000, I reenrolled at S.N.U. My physical health headed downhill, quickly. In June, I was admitted to ICU due to multi-organ failure. I was immediately put on the heart transplant list. I stayed in the transplant intensive care unit for a month and was slowly improving. The next thing I recall was waking up in September in Salt Lake City, Utah, not knowing where I was. I had been sent there on August 14, 2000, to get a CardioWest, a total artificial heart. The next day, I received a partial artificial heart, known as a Left Ventricular Assist Device (L.V.A.D.). It is intended as a "bridge to transplant." It is an attempt to keep me functional until a heart becomes available. I rehabbed in Utah for two months and went home in late October. I continued to improve.

In March 2001, the L.V.A.D. malfunctioned. I then had a new set of problems that the hospital and doctors weren't equipped to take care of. I requested to move to Salt Lake City. The people in Salt Lake City said, "You don't know anyone here. You don't have anyone to help you, nor do you have the finances to pay for a transplant." In July, after seeing my determination, I was given permission to move. It has been difficult being away from all of my family and friends in Oklahoma City. Nonetheless, I knew that I must move if I wanted to receive some of the best medical care available, and most of all, live.
The past 5 years have been difficult. I was very athletic and independent before the heart disease got severe. I admit, at first I was angry, frustrated, and depressed. I thought, "I am finally getting my life on track, and I get told I have heart disease. What did I do to deserve this?" Even in September 2000, I was rude to the hospital personnel in Utah. There were several reasons for that but most of all I didn't want an artificial heart. I was angry that the decision was made for me. I have slowly come to terms with it. I am grateful to be alive.

Over the past year, I have tried to improve my attitude and my lifestyle. Most people who know me well have noticed the dramatic change. I have a strong desire to get well and go on to accomplish the goals I had before the heart disease developed. The things I want the most are to complete my bachelor's degree, be able to help people overcome situations that may be hindering them from living life to its fullest, and play basketball again.
At this point in time, I am at the top of the heart transplant list for my blood type and size. I could receive a heart at any moment. If you have questions regarding transplants go to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Transplantation Resource, TransWeb, or the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). Finances are a continuing concern, and will be the rest of my life. Some friends of mine have started fundraising through the National Foundation for Transplants. If you know anyone that may be able to assist with the fundraising, please send him or her to the N.F.T. website and/or contact Nancy McGlocklin. For everyone asking, all gifts are tax-deductible. For other questions you may have, go to their website. I am, both, excited and nervous at the same time. I can't wait to be healthy again.

I am grateful for the technological advances the medical community is making. I want to thank all my friends, family, doctors, nurses, and other individuals who have helped me through this.

I urge everyone to check out the Coalition on Donation and give the gift of life by talking to your family and signing a donor card, today. For additional questions you may have about organ donation, check out the U.S. government's Organ Donation site.

One of my favorite quotes is, "The secret of life isn't what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you, by Norman Vincent Peale. I urge you to take a look at your own life circumstances, and think about what you can do differently today, because tomorrow might not arrive.
UPDATE: I received a heart transplant May 2002. I feel great, though I lost a lot of strength. I am continuing to rehabilitate, and am doing all I can to get back to living life to the fullest. I am currently working part time and attending college. I hope I can finally obtain the Bachelor's degree that I have wanted for some time, and get back to achieving the goals that have eluded me since I got ill.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me on this long journey. You made it more bearable. Thanks. I am grateful to be alive and look forward to enjoying my "second chance" at life. I hope you all are doing all you can to live a happy, fulfilling life.
"Thank you for the heart your loved one gave me.
How strange that it should beat within my chest!
All are one, and that is what has saved me,
Nor does one truly die till all find rest.
Know that in your loved one's heart a purpose
Yet drives the ancient inborn urge to be.
Our union is not merely on the surface,
Unraveling the words that made me, me."

Medical Organizations & Educational Websites:

Abicor Artificial Heart Information
American Heart Association
American Holistic Health Assoc. (AHHA)
American Organ Transplant Association
American Society for Artificial Internal Organs
American Society of Transplantation
Ask Dr. Weil
CardioWest Artificial Heart
CPR training
Discovery Health
Dr. Koop
Fitness & Health Calculators
Heart Care Handbook
HeartPower Online
HeartQuest Ventricular Assist Device
HeartSaver Device
Intermountain Health Care
Internet-health-directory - Cardiomyopathy Page - Artificial Hearts
Life Gift Org
Mayo Clinic
Medical DeviceLink
Medical News Today
Mended Hearts, Inc.
National Foundation for Transplants
National Inventors Hall of Fame
National Transplant Assistance Fund
Organ Donation
Public Citizen Health Research Group
Talk MD
The Heart Truth: For Women About Heart Disease
Thermo - Heartmate LVAS
Thoratec/Thermo Electron Corp.
Transplant Recipient International Org (TRIO)
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
Utah Artificial Heart Program

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Last updated Nov. 18, 2006