Karen Koch

eCampaign_KarenKoch_KentonKoch_032415_resizedI first noticed symptoms in September of 1999. It started out as chest pain/pressure but I paid no attention to it. My dad was very ill at the time so I figured it was related to “stress”. After two years of recurring symptoms, I realized this was more than stress. I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment. The nurse started an EKG and thought I was having a heart-attack in front of her. On February 14, 2001, Valentine’s Day, I underwent a series of tests and was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. My heart was diseased; it was enlarged and pumping with less than 20% efficiency.

The medications that the doctors prescribed me were beginning to work to get my condition under control and I was able to raise my two children – 6 and 11 at that time – and function well enough with my condition. I put work on hold after I was diagnosed, and I chose to do volunteer work involving my kids; my daughter was in competitive cheer and my son started racing go-karts at the age of 8.

In the summer of 2003 the doctors decided it was time to consider implanting an ICD, an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, that would monitor my heart and provide necessary therapy if it were to go into a deadly arrhythmia. We scheduled the appointment for after a family vacation, but an hour and a half into the flight I started to feel very ill. The flight attendant asked if she could do anything to help, and that was the last thing I remembered before I passed out. My husband, who was trained in CPR, was not able to find a pulse on me and I was unresponsive for almost 2 minutes. After we landed, the paramedics met us at the gate to transfer me to a hospital, and the surgery for the ICD that was scheduled to happen after vacation actually happened on vacation.

My condition remained stable until June 2011 when I noticed a significant change in my health. Over the next two years I adjusted my lifestyle to try and stabilize my condition but in April 2013 my doctor recommended a transplant. It definitely was not an easy decision but I accepted and was officially listed for the transplant in July 2014.

On January 13, 2015, I got the call at 8:30 that evening. A heart was available for me and it was an excellent match! After months of waiting, I felt prepared to take the call, but I was overwhelmed with emotion. I pulled myself together and realized this was the right decision for myself and my family. We headed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital and the transplant occurred on the afternoon of January 14, 2015.

I received a heart from a 20 year old girl, and thanks to the generosity of the donor and her family, I now have a second chance at life. I am forever grateful to them and to my old heart for holding up as long as it did…it has given me so many wonderful memories. I have had minimal problems during recovery – I am getting stronger every day and now have so much to look forward to!