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Alicia's Story

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Heart Transplant

Alicia and her daughter, Shannon, enjoy time together in their Glenside home.

Until she fainted in 2012, Alicia didn’t know she was sick. Feeling tired and out of breath were “normal for me,” says the now 52-year-old single mom. The Glenside resident believed she felt that way because she was overweight and out of shape. She was working 10- to 12-hours daily attending her daughter Shannon’s high school track meets and working part-time on an online MBA degree.

However, she actually had a heart arrhythmia, and received a pacemaker at a local hospital. In January 2013, she followed her cardiologist, Thomas Diaz, MD, and her electrophysiologist, Joshua M. Cooper, MD, now the Temple Heart & Vascular Institute’s director of cardiac electrophysiology, to Temple.  

A year later, they diagnosed her with heart failure and she received a defibrillator. But after a heart ablation failed to correct her constant heart palpitations, she spent more than a month during the fall of 2014 awaiting a heart transplant

Finally, on Nov. 1 of that year, Yoshiya Toyoda, MD, PhD—the co-surgical director of the Temple Heart & Vascular Institute and surgical director of heart and lung transplantation at Temple University Hospital—conducted a 12-hour operation to give Alicia a new heart. Her old heart, pathologists later determined, had been damaged by sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease.

I literally died and now I'm living.


Alicia with her dog

“I literally died and now I’m living,” says Alicia, who now walks her dog through her hilly neighborhood, cooks up a storm on her grill and hopes to complete her MBA in spring 2016. “I’m looking forward to reinventing myself.”

Alicia is grateful for the family of her heart donor:  “I want to let them know that this heart is precious to me and I promise to honor them by taking care of it.”

She is also thankful for Temple Health. “They have given me a second chance at life,” she says. “The doctors have an impeccable bedside manner. They address patients with such warmth and understanding. They’re interested in you and how you feel. They treat patients like real people. It’s not a business for them. They genuinely care. It’s why I will never leave Temple.”