Dawn Byars of Oceanside, CA

Born with heart disease “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy” I have never known what the word “healthy” means. I have always been restricted and always been sick. I was not able to do things other children or teenagers did such as play sports and be active. I spent a lot of time in hospitals and I understood medical terminology by the time I was ten years old. As I aged my condition worsened, and at 19 years old I was told that eventually I would need a heart transplant but no one knew when this would be. I had another 15 years to think about getting a heart transpant as I watched my self-deteriorate in the mirror each and every day. In my twenties I met a Marine in Hawaii, the man I would marry. I told him I was really sick and I did not know how long I had to live and he might want to find someone who was healthier than me. He said he didn’t care he loved me and wanted to marry me anyway. Six years later I found myself in Congestive Heart failure at 32 years of age, and my husband a Staff Sargent in the Marine Corp who was serving in Afghanistan was called to come home because I only had three months left to live. While waiting for a new heart in the hospital my heart completely gave out, and I had to continue waiting for a heart another week in a coma on life support. My family and friends were informed my chance of making it were less than fifty percent, so they came to my bedside to say their goodbyes. I received a new heart in my coma, and woke up from my coma five days after surgery. I have a new life now and for the first time both my husband and I are learning what “healthy” means for me. I am so blessed and so thankful to my donor family. I think about my donor (my angel) all the time. I am thankful for the second chance that I have now to spend with my husband and family. I am able to exercise and play with our husky. I'm finishing my BA degree that I had to put on hold and I'm going for my MA degree. I’m using this gift of life to touch the lives of others by volunteering and sharing my story with the public to help encourage organ donation. I also speak and give hope to those who are still waiting for a transplant helping them through their journey so they know they are not alone.

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