Local woman receives heart transplant after giving birth

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – November 2012 was supposed to be one of the happiest times of Amanda Gabaldon’s life, enjoying her newborn daughter Kassidy. 

“I had the perfect pregnancy, great delivery, everything was going well, until about three or four weeks out of delivery,” she told KOB 4.

Gabaldon experienced flu-like symptoms for a couple of weeks before a doctor told her what no new mother wants to hear; she was dying.

“I went into cardiac arrest, and it was discovered that I was in heart failure, and that I was in end-stage heart failure,” said Gabaldon.

Gabaldon developed peripartum cardiomyopathy during her pregnancy, a rare and potentially deadly heart condition. Without the tools necessary to keep her alive in New Mexico, she flew to San Diego to receive a temporary artificial heart.

“Within that timeframe, I’m trying to be a mom and still keep my family together,” she said. “When you’re waiting for a heart, you think you’re done.”

After an eight-month-long wait, a real heart became available.       

“It was absolutely the most perfect heart that I could ever ask for,” Gabaldon said. “I’ll celebrate my nine-year anniversary with her. My heart comes from a wonderful woman from Utah. Her name is Terry.”

Gabaldon said she did not learn until a year after her life-saving surgery, Terry had only recently decided to become an organ donor.

“She was at a marathon and Donate Life had a booth there, helping sign people up to become donors,” she said. “It was a week before she passed away. If she hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Gabaldon said that split-second decision is the reason she has been able to watch her now nine-year-old daughter grow up.

According to New Mexico Donor Services, 85 New Mexican donor heroes saved lives all over the country in 2022. That number includes a record 28 heart donors.

“It does not surprise me at all that New Mexico is just exuding with people who want to give,” Gabaldon said. “We’re literally leading the way in heart donations and people signing up to want to be donors.”

“Over the last four years, we’ve seen donation just increase tremendously, which is huge and amazing for the gift of life that people are able to give and receive,” added Celina Espinoza, the External Affairs Director for New Mexico Donor Services. “You look at New Mexicans and their willingness to give and their willingness to open their hearts. It’s just tremendous.”

Gabaldon said becoming a donor is the only way a person can guarantee they will save someone’s life. 

“You can give a mom like me the chance to be with her baby,” she said. “You can give a young kid the chance to grow old. You have so many options of just being that one person in their life that that has made the biggest difference.” 

Espinoza said about 60% of New Mexicans are registered organ donors, a higher average compared to other states that hover around 30-45%. Just one donor can save up to eight people and heal up to 75 others. 

Click here to learn more about organ donation or to become a registered donor.