Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Heart Recipient Shares Story on National Stage

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Heart Recipient Shares Story on National Stage

Article excerpt

Byline: Cindy Holifield

Annemarie Ward, 23, has been named a National Go Red for Women spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. The Fleming Island resident has been battling heart disease since she was 7.

Ward was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in April 2000, which means the cardiac muscle is oversized, and the patient can't be active or do anything aerobic.

She suffered for 10 years as her heart was growing weaker. As she continued her education and started college, she didn't let this slow her down. She was put on a transplant list at 17 and, at age 18, her dream came true when she was told there was a heart for her.

Her donor was 14-year-old Raivyn Perbtanie, who had been in an accident on a 4-wheeler. She was declared brain dead 48 hours later.

"They came to us and said, 'Tracie we can't do any more,'" said her mother, Tracie Perbtanie. "I said, 'OK, call LifeQuest. We know what we need to do. ...' I wanted to fight for that heart because it was a heart of gold."

Perbtanie knew what they needed to do because Raivyn told them. Actually, she told everyone.

Raivyn knew she wanted to be an organ donor from the time she was 10 when her cousin, an organ donor, died. She would tell everyone she came into contact with about her plans and why they should become an organ donor, too.

For Ward, beneath the joy of having a new life ahead of her, she still struggled knowing that someone had to die for her to get that heart.

"I felt guilty. I felt happy. I felt alone. I felt safe," Ward said. "I just couldn't believe I got a second chance at life because of their decision."

Raivyn donated four organs, but Perbtanie's biggest wish was that she meet the person who received Raivyn's heart, just because of what the heart symbolizes. She got her wish the day before Mother's Day in 2013.

"I tell her all the time you're my heart daughter, and that's how it is for anyone who meets us. ... She is our daughter," Perbtanie said.

When Ward spoke after being named National Go Red for Women at the heart association's luncheon, Perbtanie was by her side. Her goal is to have everyone be aware of how precious the heart is and that they should take care of it. …

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