Two strangers met in the hospital when both needed a heart transplant. They survived harrowing ordeals. Then, a twist of fate brought them together five years later, when they found love and happiness in the face of long medical odds. Their love story is a testament to the power of love, shared experience, and hope.
16. More Than Just Stress
The first day it happened, Taylor Givens was sitting in her AP Comparative Government class. She suffered from shortness of breath and felt like her heart was racing. She tried to shake it off, but deep down this talented senior knew that there was something deeply wrong. Although her doctor told her it was just senior stress, Taylor and her mom felt certain that it was something more serious at work.
15. Needing a Heart Transplant
Taylor was even placed in a psychiatric hospital due to extreme anxiety, but the medication they gave her didn’t help. One week later she was released. The Givens family returned to the family doctor, who ordered a chest x-ray. The cardiologist called her immediately with the news that she had an enlarged heart and needed a transplant. He ordered her to the hospital immediately.
14. Ejection Fraction
Taylor’s “ejection fraction,” which is the amount of blood pumped by the heart, was just 10%. It should be 60% or higher. Most people who have a percentage as low as Taylor’s don’t last 24 hours. Taylor made one last phone call, to her boyfriend, informing him she might not make it. Doctors believed that her condition might have been the result of a cold that reached her heart and damaged the tissue.
13. Doctor in Tears
“It ruined the muscle and it got bigger to compensate,” Taylor said. “It was completely random and shocking.” Taylor’s fraction fell to five percent. Everyone prepared for her death, including the doctor, who was crying. “That’s when it really hit us,” Taylor’s mother said. “If the doctor is crying about this, we should probably be crying about this, too.”
12. Life Support
11. Congenital Heart Defect
Collin Kobelja had struggled with a congenital heart defect for his entire life. He had a shunt put into his heart at just three days old. When he was 17 months old, Collin had a heart transplant. However, the survival rate for a transplant is low when the recipient is a child. Although the family was scared of the surgery, just before they accepted the transplant they received a fortune cookie with the message, ‘”you will have a change of heart.” This had to be a sign. It was New Year’s Eve 1990, and Collin went ahead with the heart transplant.
10. A Second Transplant
For years everything seemed fine, but then in 2011, Collin seemed to come down with the flu. Collin had lived to be 22 years old. However, his number seemed to be up: he had a persistent cough, couldn’t breathe, and felt sick to his stomach. At the hospital, tests showed that his ejection fraction was only 10 percent. This meant his heart was failing. He was put back on the transplant list. Like Taylor, Collin was put on life support.
9. Winning the Lottery
The hospital now needed two hearts. The odds of the hospital receiving two hearts for two people at the same time were slim to none. The transplant rules determined that if a heart was located, it would go to Taylor because she was younger. One of their doctors said that even if one of them received a heart and survived, it would be like winning the lottery.
8. Two Transplants on the Same Day
That’s when everyone’s luck started to change. A person in Georgia was on life support and Taylor was a match for his heart. Doctors only had a six-hour window to do the transplant. Against all odds, a second heart became available in Florida and it was meant for Collin. Within a 24-hour period, both young people were preparing for heart transplant surgery.
7. Two Survivors
Unbelievably, both procedures went smoothly. Doctors never expected two positive outcomes. Still, there were significant complications ahead. Heart transplants are complex and both Collin and Taylor had long recoveries. Taylor had internal bleeding that required a second surgery. Thankfully, it went well. Meanwhile, Collin got pneumonia and it was touch and go for awhile. Thankfully, he too got better.
6. A Tepid Meeting
The two even had their first meeting during their recoveries. They simply nodded or said hello to each other. Taylor even thought that Collin might be a bit of a jerk. Collin said he just didn’t want to engage with anyone at the time because he was so miserable. Then, shockingly, the new heart started to fail just one year later. Taylor heard about it on Facebook and she reached out to him.
5. A Third Transplant
After they reconnected, Collin and Taylor chatted about his situation. He got a third transplant and made yet another recovery. That was when fate intervened to bring them together. In June of 2016, both happened to be at the hospital for routine checkups. They bumped into each other, and this time Collin was friendly to Taylor. Taylor’s mom noticed that he seemed to be flirting with her.
4. Dating and a Terrible Shock
The two started dating and everything seemed amazing. That was when they were both hit with a punch in the gut: Taylor was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma. The cancer was probably caused by Taylor’s reaction to the heart transplant. Taylor was not about to quit. “Collin took me to every infusion,” Taylor said. “When I was sick and throwing up until to 2 in the morning he was sitting up with me.”
3. Remission and Marriage
Taylor was able to beat cancer and went into remission. The couple was madly in love with each other, and they decided to make a big move: they would marry on the day they had their heart transplants. “All of the things that fell into place for us to be together are wild. Everything has happened exactly as it needed to happen,” Taylor said.
2. Thrilled to Be Together
The couple planned an unconventional wedding. Since they have health struggles, they won’t have children. “We can deal with ourselves and our own mortality,” says Taylor, “but I don’t ever want to have to tell a kid that both of their parents have an illness that could take them out at any time.” The two are thrilled to start their lives together.
1. A Happy Future
Taylor and Collin are living their lives together, one day at a time. Collin works in human resources with Holy Cross Health. Taylor is a public speaker who advocates for organ donation. “We are not living some sort of superhero life,” she said. “Organ transplants gave us a normal life,” she said. “We are happy to be able to move forward.”