I was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a heart muscle disease. Circulation was becoming a problem. By April 2011 my heart was only functioning at 12 percent and I was told that I was in advanced heart failure. Prior to my transplant, my quality of life was not like that of a normal teenager-- I had many restrictions. I could not participate in physical education at school and any activity that would elevate my heart rate such as running, riding my bike, playing basketball and jumping on the trampoline was not recommended. I was not able to walk up the stairs at school without having to stop a few times before reaching the top.

The day I found out that there was a suitable donor for me I couldn't believe it. My mom called me to tell me that the nurse coordinator at The Nebraska Medical Center had called her and said that there was a donor heart available. I didn't believe my mom at first; I had to call her twice! I was nervous before the transplant surgery because I didn't know what the future would hold for me or if the surgery would be a success. The recovery after my transplant was tough at first but the more I got out of bed and walked, the faster my recovery went. The first 3 months after my transplant were crucial for me because I was on restricted isolation, which meant I had to avoid big crowds and if I wanted to go out in public I had to wear a surgical mask. I was on a strict diet with no fresh fruits or fresh vegetables and no eating out.

My quality has greatly improved. Now I am able to live like a normal teenager with no restrictions at all. I can run, play, basketball, and work out every day - I can even jump on the trampoline with my little cousins. On the first day of school this year I was able to walk up the stairs with all my books and supplies without having to stop. The transplant has impacted my family greatly by making my family closer. My transplant has given us all a new look on life, how fragile life is and that we should not take it for granted.

Since my transplant, I've been able to get my drivers license, get a part-time job, and go on vacation with my family. I have graduated from high school and honored to have been awarded a scholarship to the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL). I will be starting college at UNL in August 2013. Hannah Hetherington

The Nebraska Medical Center and Children's Hospital & Medical Center have connected me with other transplant recipients and patients waiting for a new heart. I am able to share my experience with them and forge new friendships along the way. 

I would like my donor family to know how grateful I am because they said yes to organ donation and I now have a second chance at a happy, healthy life. They are my heroes. Not a day goes by where I don't think about the donor and the donor family. I would also like them to know that, although their loved one has passed on, a part of them is still living on today. To anyone considering registering as a donor, I say check "yes" to organ, eye and tissue donation because they could save so many lives, and I am proof that organ donation is successful. It is the greatest gift one person could pass on to another.