A second chance at life: Upstate woman celebrates heart transplant anniversary

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:26 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) -- Latoya Reid has lived with congestive heart failure the last ten years. A diagnosis that shocked the then 32-year-old who had no family history.

Reid managed the condition for a decade up until last summer.

“I couldn’t breath. I was pouring sweat,” Reid reflected of a rough shift at work.

With her heart in bad shape, it was recommended she travel to Charlotte for testing. Her daytrip quickly becoming a several-month-long stay.

“I was thinking about my mom and my son because I take care of them,” Reid said.

Doctors informed the 42-year-old she needed a heart transplant.

“She was in the hospital and she was on all these devices to support her heart which made her sicker in kind of the global scheme of the waitlist,” said Dr. Sanjeev Gulati, the Chief of Cardiology at Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.

Six weeks later, Reid got the life-changing news.

“[The doctor] said ‘Toya I have your heart’ and I said “Is it my heart?’ and he said ‘Yes! It’s your heart,’” Reid added.

Dr. Gulati says a heart transplant can take anywhere from four to six hours once the donor heart arrives.

“These are the sickest patients coming into the operating room and getting them stabilized and out of the operating room can be a challenge,” Dr. Gulati explained.

“When they woke me up, I was just like ‘please put me back’ because you can’t even describe the pain,” Reid said. “The way you hurt. You don’t want to walk. You don’t want to do anything. You just want to lay there still.”

A few weeks post-surgery, Reid finally decided to look at her scar.

“I knew it was going to be bad, but not to that extent and so I was crying,” Reid remembered. “I cried a lot during this time.”

Months later, she had a 180.

“[My scar] is a badge of honor. A badge of survival,” Reid added. “Somebody lost their life in order for me to live, so I take pride in that and I promise the donor family, I am going to take care of this heart.”

A second shot at life and a second act. The whole experience inspiring the TSA agent to become a nurse.

“To be able to not only save someone’s life and get them back to what is normal, but to impact someone like--that makes us grateful for the job that we are fortunate enough to do every day,” Dr. Gulati said.

“I want to make people feel like they’re family while they’re healing with whatever they’re going through,” Reid explained.

The mom now back in school, hoping to pay it forward to others the way a donor paid it forward to her.

“I appreciate life more because I did get a second chance cause a lot of people don’t even get this opportunity,” Reid said.

Latoya Reid celebrated the one year anniversary of her heart transplant last month.

Dr. Gulati says a heart transplant can last up to 30 years depending on the patient.

If you’re interested in registering on the donor list, click here.