Brianna Garcia at her desk

“I am alive because organ donation saved my life”

SRHS Nurse Lives with a New Heart

I was trying out for basketball in middle school, and I noticed that I was short of breath and having slight chest pains. I lowered myself to the ground to rest. After seconds of being on the ground, I heard a familiar voice in the distance cheering me on to continue. It was the coach, but at that moment I knew I was finished.

Once practice was over, my mother and I headed to my family doctor. Shortly before the appointment ended, she decided to refer me to a cardiologist to assure that nothing was wrong, just in case.

Feb. 25, 2010

At age 15, I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart.

The cardiologist recommended that the rest of my family be tested too, believing it was a genetic trait. My little sister Ashley, who was 14 at the time, was diagnosed, as well as my father.

All three of us were prescribed medication in hopes that it would fix the problem.

Unfortunately, after a yearlong battle, there came a time when the medicine was no longer enough to help my father. We received news that he would need a heart transplant sooner rather than later.

April 26, 2011

My dad underwent transplant surgery. While his road to recovery was successful, my heart continued to worsen.

My life became filled with hospital stays and days of weakness. I was hospitalized the entire summer before my senior year of high school with a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, constantly dripping medicine on my heart to keep it beating.

After a few weeks at Greenville Children’s Hospital, my cardiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston decided it was necessary to fly me to MUSC that night.

I was admitted to MUSC’s Intensive Care Unit, and after only a few days was placed on the organ donation list. With my heart continuing to weaken, I thought I would be sent home with a PICC line still in my arm so I would continue to have medication to keep me alive.

But, after only 23 hours of my name being on the transplant list, I received a heart. It was a perfect match. All my entire family could do was pray.

9 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2012

I underwent transplant surgery. My new heart didn’t enter my body until after 12 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2012.

That was the day my life was changed.

After staying in Charleston for three months after my transplant, we were finally allowed to come home. It was the best feeling ever, since I hadn’t been in my own bed for four months. I was able to start and finish my senior year in four months as a homebound student, and graduate with my class in 2013 shortly before celebrating my one-year transplant anniversary.

I did battle pneumothorax, where air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall, a few times during my recovery. However, today I am a healthy 22-year-old married woman. I am a high school and college graduate, and I am happily employed by Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System as a health unit coordinator on 8 Tower. 

Today I am happy and I am alive because organ donation saved my life four years ago.

Learn more about organ donation at SharingHopeSC.org.