Renee is a Native American woman from the Pueblo of the San Ildefonso Tribe in New Mexico. She was a 40-year-old wife and mother of two young girls, working fulltime and physically active, when she suddenly became very ill. Renee learned that a virus had attacked her heart, causing it to beat three times faster than normal. She had a device placed in her chest to keep her heart beating; however, over the course of the next three years, Renee was in and out of emergency rooms and had numerous hospital stays. Her heart deteriorated rapidly, until she could barely walk or even brush her teeth. A heart transplant was Renee’s only hope for survival.
In October 2002, a matching heart was donated, and Renee received the transplant that gave her a second chance at life. Nearly 16 years later, she is a proud grandmother and donation advocate. Renee’s experience inspired her to share her story with others to raise awareness for heart disease and to educate the Native American community about the importance of registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
Renee was profoundly touched by the support she received from her family and her tribe throughout her transplantation journey. They were there for Renee at her greatest time of need, bringing meals, caring for her daughters, taking her to appointments and holding fundraisers to help with medical costs until she was back on her feet again. Renee is also forever grateful to her donor “angel” and donor family for giving her the gift of life.