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My Name is Marcela and This is My Story.

I Have a New Heart.

Marcela Merlina O'Donnell was born on February 20, 1989. Marcela spent the first four years of her life in hospital emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and doctors offices. She would break into a sweat just fighting to breathe. Her breathing was consistently rapid. At birthday parties and visits to the park Marcela sat and watched other children play, unable to play herself. She was lethargic and continuously experienced shortness of breath.

Marcela was required to sleep on two pillows to prevent her heart from stopping and to ward off breathing attacks. She napped twice a day. Her toddler years were very painful and she suffered greatly. Marcela would sit on my lap and cry "Help me mommy I can't breathe". Days were bad. Nights were horrible. We lived in fear for Marcela's health. Marcela was being treated with a breathing machine and up to eight medicines. Doctors misdiagnosed Marcela's condition several times.

On August 11, 1993 we received a diagnosis that Marcela had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A virus had attacked her heart and caused it to deteriorate. They said she had six months to live. On October 8, 1993 Marcela was placed on the list for a heart transplant. Marcela received a donor heart from Indiana on November 25, 1993. It was the most precious gift a mom or dad could ever receive. For us it truly was The Gift of Life.

Dr. Jack Copeland at the University of Tucson Medical Center performed the transplant surgery. No words can describe the gratitude we feel for him.

Marcela is a very delightful nine year old. She lives in Arizona with her mother, little sister Brittany and her big brother Andy.

Marcela loves to dance, swim, roller blade, ride her bike, play with her puppies, cats and African frog, she collects stickers, plays her violin and thinks the Spice Girls are very cool.

She does volunteer work with her mother for Donor Network of Arizona and enjoys speaking engagements at public schools and health fairs.

Marcela and I will be traveling to Washington DC this year in April to speak in front of congress. We are being sponsored by First Family Pledge. Check back soon for information on our trip.