COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A few months ago, we introduced you to a young woman who had congestive heart failure.
“I was at risk for sudden cardiac death, which meant that I wasn’t going to have a heart attack but that my heart was simply going to stop and I was going to die,” said Jenna Bell, recalling a diagnosis at age 23.
She had a defibrillator that helped her start a family until she got sick again and needed a heart transplant.
After a successful heart transplant from a woman named Katelyn Mary Vanacore in February of 2016, she’s now working to raise awareness to help all transplant recipients.
“I wouldn’t give my new heart for anything. Katelyn and I have gone through a lot and we make a great team,” said Bell.
Since then, she has learned a lot about transplantation, including that her new heart has an expiration date.
“People think ‘Oh! We transplanted her heart; she has a new one that works now. We don’t need to do anything about that.’” Bell said. “Transplantation is not a cure. It is a temporary fix for a really long problem.”
Transplants last between 10 and 16 years on average, according to doctors.
“Not knowing how this heart will last me is absolutely terrifying,” said Bell. “If my new heart lasts 16 years my daughter will be barely 20.”
Now that Bell has a family, she doesn’t want them to go through the struggles again.
“It really changes the way you do a lot of things,” said Bell.
“She had to stay away from home a lot and she had to sleep at the doctor’s,” said her daughter Mary Ann. “We walked in circles around the hospital to keep mama’s heart going.”
Last month, she went to a conference in D.C. for transplant recipients, living donors, and donor family members.
“Being with a group that understand that and has been through that with you, it’s awesome,” Bell said.
She wants to raise awareness and funds for more research through Power 2 Save.
“I want one transplant for life,” Bell said. “Not doing this could potentially be a death sentence.”
Organ recipients need to take medication every day to fight against rejection and be under a doctor’s care for the rest of their lives, according to Power 2 Save.
Those medications weaken her immune system so her body doesn’t attack the new heart.
“When I was first diagnosed, I remember saying ‘I hope I am still here when my sister graduates,’ and I just got to watch my little sister get married,” Bell said.
But for now, she is hanging on to hope.
“If I am a clock I’m am going to enjoy every minute that it’s going to give me,” she said.
She says donating to Power 2 Save can fund developments for all types of diseases, like cancer. She said any advances in the medical field will be beneficial to many health issues.