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Life Stories: A Second Chance at Life

Jessica Melore Jessica Melore

Heart Recipient

“Am I going to die?” Jessica Melore, then a 16-year-old high school senior, couldn’t believe she was asking the doctor this unthinkable question. Only hours earlier, Jessica, a co-captain of her tennis team with no history of major health problems, had nearly collapsed from a sudden massive heart attack. She didn’t drink or smoke, and had never touched drugs in her life.

After staring at the young woman intensely for a few seconds, the doctor left the room as her heart plummeted. Later that night, the Last Rites would be said for her because she was not expected to live through the night.

A heart transplant was Jessica’s only hope, but due to a critical shortage, she had to be placed on a then-experimental heart assist device known as the LVAD. Complications led to an infection in her left leg, which had to be amputated in order to save her life.
Though she was placed among thousands on a heart transplant waiting list, Jessica was determined to lead as full a life as possible in the meantime. She began giving motivational speeches about overcoming adversity and became a public advocate for organ donation, heart disease, and disability issues. She was a lead in her school play, sang with the choir in Disney World, and was later named the prom queen.

“The greatest compliment I can ever receive is when someone registers to be a donor after hearing my story. There is no gift more profound.”

— Jessica Melore

A few days before high school graduation, the call that would save Jessica’s life finally came. She received her heart transplant on June 22, 1999, and was able to attend Princeton University just three months later. After graduating from Princeton, she started working at NJ Sharing Network as a Project Manager for New Jersey’s Workplace Partnership for Life Grant Project. Funded by a grant from HRSA, the project was the largest investigation to date of organ donation education in the workplace. As Senior Manager of Education and Partnerships, she went on to manage the organ and tissue donation partnership with NJ Motor Vehicle Commission and other statewide entities, serve on Donate Life America's Advisory committee, and share techniques and best practices around the country. She now serves as Program Manager for Transplant Outreach, Education, and Advocacy at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and looks forward to continuing to make an impact as a recipient and professional in the transplant field.

Jessica is extremely grateful for having been given a second chance at life, and lives her life for her donor and the thousands on the waiting list still in critical need of a lifesaving organ. “The greatest compliment I can ever receive is when someone registers to be a donor after hearing my story. There is no gift more profound.”

Story courtesy of Jessica Melore.

 


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