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Woman Spends Christmas Waiting For Heart, Liver

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CBS Minnesota (con't)

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Imagine that a hospital room is where you’ll spend the holidays. It’s a reality for a Duluth woman who has spent the past month in the Mayo Clinic.

Jessica Danielson, 29, left her television production job and apartment for Rochester in early December, when doctors told her she needs not only one, but two life-saving organ transplants.

“I didn’t realize how sick I was,” Danielson said. “I was diagnosed at age 19 with restrictive cardio myopathy, and that led to congestive heart failure.”

The diagnosis means her heart doesn’t fully relax between beats and properly fill with blood. A heart transplant was always a reality, but the prolonged problem caused permanent liver damage.

“When they told me, well, you need a liver, I was really surprised. And then when they said I needed to live here, I almost didn’t believe them,” Danielson said.

But now, St. Marys Mayo Clinic hospital is where she hopes to find a new lease on life. Ever the optimist, said carts her IV through hospital hallways, raising the spirits of the staff, who already feel to her like family.

“I am almost 30. I have spent my 20’s being sick, and I’d like to try all those things that life has to offer, building my own family. I am sure I’ll get that chance. I just feel like I will,” Danielson said.

Doctors say the rare condition calls for a rare procedure.

“Out of 30 heart transplants a year, we may do two combined organ transplantation like heart-liver or heart-kidney,” said Dr. Alfredo Clavell.

The wait could take weeks, or many months, but Danielson isn’t thinking about the gift she could receive this season. Instead, she’s thinking of someone else’s loss.

“I think about my donor’s family every day,” she said. “And I wonder what they are doing right now, and I hope they are having a great Christmas; and I hope they are spending time with their loved ones, because the sad reality is this is their last Christmas, and they have no idea. It’s really heartbreaking actually.”

Danielson said those words as she wiped away tears.

“So, I hope they are having a beautiful Christmas,” she said. “But this is really not just a story about me. This is a story about two families; they just haven’t made their entrance into this story yet. I want them to have as much time as I can give them. Waiting is hard, it is, really hard, but what they are going through is a lot harder than this wait.”

On her CaringBridge page, Danielson reflects about how she’ll treasure Christmas more than ever before, surrounded by her loved ones in the hospital.

“It really is a wonderful life,” she writes.

Doctors have discussed the possibility of Danielson receiving a third organ transplant – a kidney. But they are hoping a new heart and liver will help heal her kidney first.

Danielson hopes her story will raise the awareness about the importance of organ donation. According to LifeSource, more than 2,800 people in the Upper Midwest are waiting for a transplant. Statistics show that nationally, 18 people a day die waiting for a transplant.

You can learn more about organ donation or how to designate here:

Donate Life: MN
LifeSource
Donate Life: US

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