marcena , transplant Apr. 04. 11 2 Comments

When thinking of how transplantation gave Marcena a new life, there is a memory so interwoven in my heart, that I still visualize it nearly every day. It was a few weeks after her first heart transplant in July 1993, and she was well enough to be given a “day pass” to leave the hospital. We can never speak highly enough about the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and one of the many things they got right was understanding the need for children’s emotional and spiritual well being and not just their obvious physical care. Giving those “long-termers” an opportunity to go beyond the walls of the hospital and for a few hours, pretend they were simply spending some quality family time exploring the city, was immeasurably helpful. It saved our sanity, Marcena’s and mine, and we could not wait to have that pass in hand!

We had gone down the big hill to Forbes Avenue many times during her weeks and months hospitalized prior to the transplant. We would walk slowly, not in a hurry to be anywhere in particular except for the hospital. Marcena enjoyed the walk down the hill, leading to the day’s freedom, because it actually helped her feel stronger, with renewed stamina… downhills are like that. She enjoyed eating real food among the University of Pittsburgh college students at places like Primanti Brothers and Hemingways Café. She shopped at consignment and music stores that catered to the college neighborhood. She leisurely sipped her favorite GNC peanut butter and banana shake or cooled down with Dave and Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream. It was the trip back up the hill that we all dreaded most. It was the trip back up that sent us into the confines of the hospital and the grave reality of her failing heart. It was the trip back up that was a harsh reminder of how weak and frail her body had become. It was the trip back up that turned her giddy playfulness into a solemn quiet. But it was the trip back up that allowed her dad, to literally carry her on his back, to rescue her in her time of need (because at 13 they suddenly don’t ‘need’ you any more). It was the trip back up that he could use his strong legs and runners fortitude to safely carry her back to the impeccable care of the hospital. It was these trips back up that hill that allowed him to feel he could do something to help his baby girl, something, so that for those steps up, he no longer felt powerless.

However, this was our first family outing post-transplant. When we turned the corner at Atwood and faced the hill up with the hospital waiting at the top, Kevin and I looked at each other with trepidation. Marcena, in the meantime, made it clear that on this day, she was conquering the hill. And off she went in front of us, bouncing blond curls pulled back in a ponytail and skinny legs showing beneath her cut off jeans with Lauren and Marcus playing, seemingly unaware of the enormity of the moment, at her side. Grandma followed along with us, praying that this new heart would not fail her, I would imagine. And then it happened, she reached the top. Her reaction mimicked Rocky’s run to the top of The Philadelphia Museum of Art but far more moving. Tears of joy filled everyone’s eyes and it is that moment, at the top of that hill, that I visualize her nearly every day. She had done it. She was a champion. And in that moment, we were filled with renewed hope for the future.


  1. Reply Rachel says:

    This is a beautiful story! One I've never heard before. Thank you SO much for sharing! May the Elephant Run and Marcena's Miracles allow many other people to conquer that hill! All my love! Rachel

  2. Reply Nette says:

    I don't know what to say Lori. That was absolutely beautiful and I can't stop crying. I wish with all my heart that we had kept in touch so I could have at least, in some way, been there for you. You were both so blessed to have each other as Mother and Daughter. My heart goes out to you and your family. I love you.

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