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Stories of hope

Marilyn DeRosa Wilkie: Never, ever give up

Woman wearing dark sunglasses, smiling, with water and blue house in background

I want to begin my story by thanking my donor, their family, my family and the extraordinary team of surgeons, doctors, nurses, PA’s and everyone that helped to save my life.

In March of 2016, I was experiencing swollen legs, feet and fatigue. As a College Vice President, I was working 40+ hours a week and traveling extensively. I was an “amateur” triathlete, so this condition was foreign to me. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy due to a high incidence of Coxsackie B virus in my blood. I had no idea what this virus was or how I could have come in contact with it.

I was put on heart failure medication immediately. My prognosis was good at that time. In June of 2017, I was run over by a pick up truck while I was out for a cycling workout. Both my legs were damaged and required multiple surgeries in two different hospitals to repair. After leaving the hospital, I spent one month in a nursing home. During my recuperation I was fired from my job. At my age, losing your career was devastating to me—even more than the accident. Over the course of months, I graduated from the bed, to a wheelchair, to braces, to a walker, to crutches to finally a boot on my right foot/ankle. I learned to walk all over again.

I traveled to Hawaii with my daughter to climb Mount Haleakala. After that climb, I had my last surgery. So I was back on crutches and in a both for about 6 weeks. In the Fall of 2018, I resumed my job search. Although feeling exhausted, retaining water and generally short of breath, I went through rigorous interviews. I landed what I called my “dream job”on February 27, 2019 and a few hours later, the doctor told me that I needed a heart transplant. Again, I was devastated. I felt so defeated and scared.

I was admitted to the hospital on March 4, 2019. I was accepted on the Transplant list on March 15 and a new heart was available later that day. I underwent the transplant on March 16 and the home 6 days later. The support of my family, especially my sister, was critical to my survival. A courageous and selfless stranger saved my life. They are forever my hero. I hope my story inspires others to never give up and to have faith in God, I am grateful for every new day that is given to me. Always say positive, look forward and please be kind.

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