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Ariana Sumner-Heart Recipient

Hello, I’m Ariana Sumner and I am a heart transplant recipient. When I was 23 I was pregnant with my first child, a baby girl. After an otherwise healthy pregnancy on the day I was set to be induced I was in trouble; I had dangerous hypertension, fluid around my lungs and heart. After being incubated and flown to UK hospital my family learned that my daughter had died in utero. I went into cardiac arrest and the doctors had one minute to deliver the baby in the ICU. Afterwards I was put on the ECMO machine to let my heart and lungs rest. After a week I was taken off the ventilator and the ECMO machine and woke up and learned what had happened that fateful February day. I also learned that I had Peripartum cardiomyopathy. Which is a disorder that occurs in pregnant women close to delivery and is when the heart enlarges and cannot pump sufficiently. But that most patients regain their normal cardiac function. That UK hospital stay was a month and I was discharged and went home to begin rebuilding my life and healing my body with my new diagnosis of congestive heart failure. But instead I got worse. In the month I was home I was transported to UK via ambulance and again by helicopter for a massive blood clot.
In April 2013 I was flown back to UK with end stage congestive heart failure. There again I was put on life support; the ECMO machine and ventilator. But this time I wasn’t improving. I was put on dialysis and taken back for major surgery for my heart. Surgeons implanted two ventricular assisted devices (VADS) to do the job of my heart. After surgery I became septic and It was learned that I had a stroke on the left part of my brain.
About 3 weeks after I was essentially given up I began to make improvements and eventually improved enough to be put on the transplant list. I had to wait two months and seven days is the ICU at UK I learned I got my heart. Out of the 1,500 miles in each way my donor heart could have came from it ended up at the same hospital. My donor was from the Letcher county; the next county over from home. My heart was a direct donation which made it all the more special. After a thirteen hour surgery I was out and two days later I woke up. Ten days after my transplant I was discharged after 4 months in the hospital.
I still have guilt about my Donor and how this young man died. He was only 21 years old and I think about him and his family every single day and holiday. I know what it’s like to lose a baby. It I cannot imagine losing a child I’ve come to know and love for 21 years. Words cannot explain how grateful I am to still be here alive and the selfless gift I received. I live every day for this young man and my daughter Baleigh.