Jessica Kath has no pulse.
But the 21-year old is full of heart, as her doctors have witnessed.
“It’s been incredible watching her be a survivor,” says UT Southwestern cardiologist Mark Drazner. “Her story is amazing.”
At birth, Jessica was diagnosed with a rare disease called Diamond-Blackfan Anemia. She doesn’t make her own red blood cells and needs regular transfusions.
“I wasn’t supposed to live past 12 with my blood disease,” says Jessica. “I’m a real fighter. I don’t give up.”
At 6, she was granted a Make-a-Wish trip to go to Disney World.
“Since then,” adds Jessica, “I told my mom, I’m going to work at Disneyworld before I die. And at 18, I made my goal.”
But when she collapsed from congestive heart failure while working at Disney World last year, many feared Jessica’s time had come.
“When her heart was in cardiac arrest,” remembers Dr. Drazner. “She fortunately doesn’t remember it, but literally minutes, if not seconds, away from not making it. And here we are a year later and she’s thriving.”
Thriving, short-term, because of a battery operated mechanical pump, called and LVAD that keeps her heart beating.
Not knowing what her future holds, Jessica recently asked for another wish.
“I asked my doctors,” says Jessica. “I said, ‘A lot of my friends saw me being pushed in a wheelchair with paramedics running behind me. A couple of them thought I died, can I please go back and show them I’m still alive.'”
This time, to her surprise, her cardiologist and nurse came to share that moment with her. A few weeks ago, the medical team flew out to spend a day with Jessica at Disney World. The theme this year is “celebrating.”
“That’s what we were all doing,” says Dr. Drazner. “We were celebrating her life and she really is a survivor.”
“You know how many doctors go places with their patients?” asks Jessica. “And they flew all the way out to Florida just to spend the day with me. It really shows how much they care about me. They are my true heroes.”
Now, Jessica is wishing and waiting for a heart transplant and dreaming of the day she can return to Disney World with her doctors with a new heart and a new lease on life.
© 2009 WFAA-TV, Inc. All Rights Reserved.