Illinois Donor Diaries – Chapter 36 – A Second Chance

Rosemary Deno and her husband

Rosemary shares the latest chapter from our Illinois Donor Diaries about her experience waiting for and receiving a heart transplant.

Please submit your story if you’d like us to share your personal tie to organ and tissue donation.

Thank you,
Nick

I was just 13 years old when I first experienced a drastic weight loss and excessive tiredness. No true ailment, however, brought me to see a doctor. At age 19, still losing weight and feeling constantly fatigued, I was admitted to the hospital and was soon after diagnosed with rheumatic fever. As the disease went untreated for years, my heart was under serious strain. Over the next several years, I underwent numerous open heart surgeries and valve replacements. By the time I was 38 years old, I was in heart failure. A strict regimen of medications and fluid restrictions seemed to be going well until I collapsed in my home. After being put on a pacemaker, I was soon placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant.

A little after midnight on Jan. 31, 1997, we received a call that there was a heart waiting for me. I knew this heart was the real thing because it was the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and I knew this was my gift from her. I received my heart almost two years to the date of being placed on the list. My journey to a new heart was not an easy one. The surgery was long and difficult on my family. When I finally got to go home, I had to go to physical and occupational therapy to improve my deteriorated muscle and motor skills. It was hard and took a lot of determination and support from my family, but I did it.

It has now been 13 years since that cold, wintery night. God has been with me and my family every step of the way. I thank God, and my donor and her family each and every day for my wonderful chance at life. I have truly been given a second chance, without which I would have missed so many things, including my children graduating from high school and college. I hope and pray that you also believe that each person, no matter who they are, would consider giving someone a chance at life. Life is a gift and with your help, each day can be precious.

My family, brothers and many dear friends felt that the only way that they could give back was to become a donor themselves.  I of course, cannot donate my heart, but am a registered donor to help others in any other way possible.

– Rosemary Deno

Downers Grove, IL

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