In 2011, Brooke Briggs got to celebrate two birthdays. The month of May marked her one-year “birthday” since receiving a heart transplant at Sentara Heart Hospital. Briggs was a milestone patient for the hospital, as she was the 300th heart transplant performed since the program’s start in 1989.
Before a return visit to the hospital, Brooke baked cholesterol-free cupcakes to share with the Heart Failure Clinic staff and the Cardiac Surgery ICU nurses, where she was a patient for a month. The staff was happy to see her looking great and living life to the fullest. In the year since her illness and subsequent transplant, Briggs had traveled to Costa Rica for a friend’s wedding; competed in the Shamrock 8K road race; taken a boot camp exercise class on the beach; and continued to work full time as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Brooke believes that staying active and maintaining a positive attitude are the keys to success as a transplant recipient. When asked if there was anything she couldn’t do, she quickly replied, “They say I can’t sky dive, but I think that’s just because they don’t want me to try it!”
Her other limitations: no raw sushi and being vigilant about sunscreen (which, she adds, she should do anyway).
A year after her surgery, Brooke received a note from her donor’s mother. She learned that her heart came from a 38-year old woman in West Virginia. One of the things the donor’s mother mentioned was her daughter’s love of Halloween. Ironically, Brooke dressed up for the first time since childhood this past Halloween.
“You just never know,” Brooke added with a smile.