Centralia woman celebrates two years with new heart, advocates for change

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COLUMBIA - This month, a mid-Missouri woman can celebrate two years with a new heart, but many other Missourians are still waiting.

MaryAnn Holsinger, 74, from Centralia, suffered a heart attack in June 2017 while she was getting ready to play golf with her friends near the Lake of the Ozarks.

"We were getting up really early to go play golf at Eldon Country Club down there, and in the night, I woke up at 3 a.m.," she said. "I vomited and I couldn't get back to bed."

Holsinger said she thought she just had the flu, but when she got to the doctor, she found it was much worse.

"He listened to my heart, and he said, 'You're having a heart attack or you've already had one,'" Holsinger said.

Doctors put two stints in her heart, but it was not enough. After a month, Holsinger was back in the emergency room. Doctors saw her heart was failing, and they recommended she get a transplant.

According to a study by American Heart Association, heart transplant wait lists can sometimes take more than a year depending on the patient's race, time and location.

Luckily for Holsinger, she didn't have to wait that long.

"Eight days later, from when I first arrived there, they had me on the list - I mean, I got the heart. I was a recipient," she said.

Holsinger's transplant was done at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City.

Dr. Andrew Kao, the medical director of heart transplantation at Saint Luke’s, said the need for organ donors is exponential.

"There's not enough donors for the number of people who need transplants, so unfortunately, every year, people pass away without ever receiving the precious gift," he said.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reports more than 113,000 people are currently on the national transplant waiting list.

The same report said about 20 people die everyday while waiting for a replacement organ.

HRSA data shows the demand for transplants nationwide is almost seven times more than the amount of donors.

Graph that shows the growing number of people on the waiting list while the number of donors and transplants grows slowly.

Photo courtesy: HRSA

Comparatively, in Missouri, the U.S. Department of Health and Senior Services reports more than 1,800 people are currently waiting for a transplant. Sixty-four of those people need a new heart.

On August 15, Holsinger will celebrate two years with her new heart - a heart that once belonged to a 29-year-old woman who was in the military. She is thankful that the woman was signed up to be donor.

"You know if you can touch several lives when you're gone, I mean I know you touch a lot when you're living, but if you can touch that many more when you leave this Earth, then I think that's a wonderful thing to attribute to yourself - that you have done something very special for people that may have lost hope," she said.