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.