Heart transplant

Heart transplant recipient becomes world-travelling gold medal athlete

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) — “I wouldn’t believe that at 67 I’m still doing long jump,” Janet Dennis said.

Dennis never considered herself a very active person for most of her life. She spent 35 years as a social worker for the Department of Social Services in Philadelphia. And walking up the stairs to get to her train, she noticed she was feeling short of breath.

“They said a virus attacked my heart and put me in heart failure, which made no sense to me,” she said. “I have never been sick. The last time I was in the hospital was the day I was born. Are you telling me that I need a new heart?

A pacemaker and defibrillator later, Dennis needed a heart transplant. And luckily, she received one in 2005.

“I just want them to know how thankful and thankful I am,” she said. “And I’m having fun like never before. I’m doing things I never would have done before.”

This includes becoming a gold medalist at the Transplant Games of America. Traveling across the country and to countries around the world, Dennis competed in swimming, shot put, discus and long jump for a total of 51 medals.

“It’s like my schedule,” she said. “Every year I go somewhere.”

Dennis’ story is one of many who received the gift of life.

“One person can save the lives of eight organ recipients,” said Rick Hasz, president and CEO of the Gift of Life Donor program. “But tissue donation can also help over 100 different recipients.”

Gift of Life acts as a liaison between donor families and donor recipients.

“Right now we have over 100,000 patients waiting for transplants in the country and over 5,000 here in our region,” Hasz said. “So the need is still great. And it all starts with a family saying yes to organ donation.”

To learn more about becoming an organ donor or Gift of Life, visit their website.

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