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6,433,518 New Yorkers have joined the NYS Donate Life Registry

Kelly’s Story (Heart Recipient)

On February 5, 2015, Kelly Krzyzak was cutting out Valentine’s Day hearts with her students at Little Lambs nursery school when she started feeling unwell. She went home and told her husband she was experiencing terrible indigestion. A short time later, she was suddenly stricken with intense chest pains and vomiting. Kelly’s husband called 911, and she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where was stabilized, then airlifted to Westchester Medical Center the following day.

Kelly had a severe heart attack, after which she suffered two strokes causing her to slip into a coma. She woke up 12 days later, not knowing where she was or what happened to her.

When I woke up the Pastor of my church was in my CTICU room saying the Lord’s Prayer before he got up to leave.

Kelly tried to get the pastor’s attention, but was unable to talk because she was intubated and couldn’t move due to her strokes. Her nurse noticed she was awake, and brought her husband into her room. He explained what happened, and told Kelly that while she was in a coma she received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a pump used for patients who have reached end-stage heart failure. This battery-operated mechanical pump helps the left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the heart) pump blood to the rest of the body. 

Kelly was added to the national transplant waitlist, hoping the LVAD would buy her the time she needed to receive a new heart. She spent 76 days in the hospital and in rehab, where she re-learned how to eat (the stroke damaged Kelly’s right vocal cord making it difficult to swallow) and walk before she was cleared to return home to wait for a donor heart to become available.

Over the next 11 months, still weak from her stroke, Kelly relied on the help of her husband of 25 years, Donovan, their 23-year-old daughter, 18-year-old son, and Kelly’s mother. Finally, on March 11, 2016, the Krzyzak family received the call they had been waiting for. Kelly’s transplant coordinator Maureen asked, “We have a match, can you come to Westchester right away?” The next day, 13 months and one week after her heart attack, Kelly received a successful heart transplant.

I was given the best gift I will ever receive. The gift of renewed life. I am so very grateful to my heart donor. I am also grateful for her family who allowed me to receive their loved ones heart. I am grateful and blessed.