CARY – About two and a half years ago, Cary resident Amy Lanning-Becerra’s life was changed after she received a heart transplant.
The 37-year-old was born with a severe congenital heart defect, and said after the transplant she no longer had a hard time doing physical activity.
“Once I had my transplant, everything was just brighter and more lively,” Lanning-Becerra said.
After about a year and a half of feeling amazing, Lanning-Becerra said she started feeling sick again. Doctors eventually told her that her body was rejecting the heart, and she would need a second transplant.
“I was pretty devastated,” Lanning-Becerra said. “I didn’t want to go through all of this again.”
Now Lanning-Becerra is facing a challenge seen by many in need of a transplant – being placed on a waiting list.
And although she is in the highest-need category on the United Network for Organ Sharing’s list, Lanning-Becerra said her doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital estimates it could take two months to find the right heart.
There are 119,000 people on the national organ transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and 22 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.
“The [donor] list is too short, and the waiting list is too long,” Lanning-Becerra said.
Lanning-Becerra said she hopes through sharing her experience, she can encourage others to be organ donors, and inspire people going through the same situation as her.
Her husband, Ed Becerra; parents Quin Lanning and Mike Lanning; and sisters, Ann Jadown and Laura Lanning, are what helps Lanning-Becerra get through her time waiting in the hospital.
Mike Lanning recently decorated his daughter’s balloon pump, which assists Lanning-Becerra’s heart with pumping blood, as “Heart2-D2,” after the Star Wars character. Ed Becerra helped her celebrate their fifth anniversary with an LED candlelight dinner and watching one of the couple’s favorite movies, “Superbad,” in the hospital.
“It sucks I can’t go outside and see my family, do things with my family,” Lanning-Becerra said. “I can’t spend time with my husband, because he has to work. It’s sad. I don’t want to do this, but I want to survive.”
She started a blog, Amy’s Heart Journey, and has connected with others through Facebook groups for people waiting for organ donations so they can share their experiences. Lanning-Becerra was even able to meet a man she talked to online, who also was waiting for an organ.
Throughout her time in the hospital, Lanning-Becerra also continues to work remotely for OptumRX pharmaceutical products in Schaumburg.
“[Amy] always has a smile on her face despite being here,” said Jadown, of Fox River Grove. “We’ll sit here for a half a day, and we’ll joke around, and she just has such a great sense of humor and lightness about it.”
Donations to help support Lanning-Becerra’s medical costs can be given on her Help Hope Live fundraising page, helphopelive.org/campaign/4336.