Kayla's journey on transplant list - FOX 13 News

Kayla's journey on transplant list

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ATLANTA - Kayla Montiel is 23, and in limbo.   In the world of heart transplants, the Gainesville college student is what's known as a "1-A."  She explains, “1A is the top of the transplant list."  Her cardiologist Dr. Robert Cole says, “To be a 1-A you have to be sick enough to be in the intensive care unit."

      That's where Kayla is, in Emory University Hospital's ICU,  a Swan Ganz catheter in her neck, feeding medication directly into her heart, and measuring its pressures, Dr. Cole and his team checking in every few hours,

Dr. Cole says,  "You know, we round on these patients, every day, sometimes for six months, and there's not a lot you can say other than, "You've got to hang in there."

     Because a heart could come today, or Kayla could be here for months.  She says, “It does get frustrating, to where I do want to cry.  But it's neither here nor there.  Either way it's going to happen, or it's not going to happen."

     Kayla knows, because this isn't her first heart transplant.   When she was still a baby, her heart failed, and her mom Debbie Mancaruso was told the surgery was Kayla's only real option.  At the time, she says, "I went numb in my mind, because it was actually too much to think about.  So, I just took it day by day."

     At 18-months, Kayla received a new heart.   Back in 1992, doctors predicted the heart would last about five years.    Debbie says, “She’s completing 21, starting 22 years.  And lived a very, very normal, healthy life,"

    The day they knew would come, finally did.  Two years ago Kayla's donor heart began to stiffen,

    Surgeons have tried to repair it, but fluid continues to build up in her abdomen, a warning sign the heart is failing.

     And, because of kidney damage from decades of anti-rejection drugs, this time Kayla needs a heart - and a kidney - transplant

Debbie says, “I constantly think about it.  I constantly think about her.  Keeping her morale up in here."  Kayla says, "I just want to be normal and live my life, I want to work, I want to go to school."

     That may have to wait. Of about 100,000 American in end-stage heart failure, only 2,000 are transplanted every year.  So finding a donor heart is like hitting the lottery.  Kayla says, "There are just so many nice, sweet people that need these organs."

      So, she encourages people to think about becoming a donor.  Sign up when you renew your driver's license.  Tell your family about your wishes.  Kayla says, “You never know who you're going to save.  You could save me.  You could save, you could save the President.  Anything can happen."

   If you’d like to follow Kayla Montiel’s journey, friends have started a Facebook page.  It’s https://www.facebook.com/Kayla-Montiel-Is-Our-Hero

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