In 1999 I was admitted to a local hospital in Connecticut with symptoms including choking and water retention. One day right before breakfast, a doctor walked in and told me that I would not be leaving the hospital without a new heart. This came as a huge shock to me, since the day before the doctors were talking about sending me home. The diagnosis: I was suffering from congestive heart failure with a viral infection that attacked my heart and caused it to become enlarged--a condition called cardiomyopathy. Without a new heart, I would die.

That very same day, I did leave the hospital--only to be sent to one that specialized in heart transplants. As I rode in the ambulance, with the sirens screeching, my husband followed the ambulance in his car.

There I received a portable device with an IV built in that pumped medication into my heart. This would help my heart function until a suitable heart donor could be found. I went home with the device and used it for about eight and a half months--until I got so sick that I was put on a respirator. My kidneys were starting to fail. I needed a new heart soon, or I knew I wasn't going to make it. To top it off, I have a rare blood type, O negative-so it was hard to find an exact match quickly.

While awaiting my new heart, I had a dream: a neatly dressed young boy with short, dark hair and a handsome face, came to my hospital bed and said, "I want you to have my heart." As he said this, he picked up my hand and kissed it gently. I asked him why he wanted me to have his heart. He said, "Because you are special. You deserve it."

I told my husband about my dream first thing in the morning. I knew that a heart would be coming my way. Three weeks later, my doctor told me a donor had been found. My new heart would come from a 15-year-old boy from Vermont. That's all I knew. I had the transplant, and all went reasonably well.

A few years later, my husband and I decided to go on a short trip. I didn't want to go too far away in case I became ill. I was interested in going to Vermont to see what it was like, since that was where my donor had grown up. Although I didn't know what town he was from, I was drawn to a place called Rutland. I had a feeling my donor had lived there and I wanted to see what it looked like. I noticed on the map, Rutland was called the "Heart of Vermont." That settled it--we were going there. As we arrived in Rutland, we were amazed to see a giant rainbow in the sky. I knew this was a sign that this was where my heart donor had lived.

The people were really friendly there, and it was just beautiful. I liked it so much that I decided that I would visit again the following year on the anniversary of my heart transplant.

I didn’t realize it, but during my next visit, my daughter Lauren e-mailed the Rutland Herald newspaper and told them that I was a heart transplant recipient staying in town and that I had a strong feeling my donor was from Rutland. A reporter called me at my hotel, and we set up an interview. The newspaper then printed a front-page story about me. I was hoping the donor's family would read my story because I was very interested in meeting them (if they were interested in meeting me). Six months later, I got a call from my heart donor's mother.

She told me she had seen the article in the paper, which prompted her to check with the hospital organ donor's department. It turned out that she lived in Rutland and worked right across the street from the hotel where we stayed. She said her son Andrew was 15 years old when he passed away after a diving accident. She mailed pictures to me right away. He was a handsome young man with dark hair. Her son looked just like the young man in my dream.

Shortly before his accident, Andrew had told his mother that he wanted to be an organ donor and that it was very important to him. He could not wait to get his driver's license, he said, so that it would say on the back that he was an organ donor.

When he died his mother knew that she should sign the papers giving permission for the hospital to harvest his organs. I received his heart, and seven other people received his other organs. He was a very special boy who kept eight people alive.

Today, I'm doing very well, and I am thankful every minute of every day to God and my donor's family. This coming July will be the sixth anniversary of my new heart. I'll be going back to the "Heart of Vermont" to see the family of the boy who saved my life.

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