While the heart is a common metaphor for love, it was heart failure that brought one local couple together.
Seven years ago, Taylor Givens and Collin Kobelija came as close to death as possible on the same day and in the same place.
“One week I was doing fine, the next week I was in total heart failure,” Kobelija said.
Givens was a senior in high school when she started having heart palpitations and trouble catching her breath. Her pediatrician diagnosed anxiety, but her heart was failing, possibly caused by a virus that mutated. She needed heart transplant right away.
“It was a really hard thing to hear as a 17 year old who had never been sick,” she said.
Kobelija was born with a heart defect and had a transplant as an infant, but was fine for years until at age 22, his doctor told him he also needed a transplant.
Givens and Kobelija were across the hall from each other at Inova Fairfax Hospital with machines keeping them. Within two hours of each other, they both got the transplant they needed.
During the long recovery, Kobelija’s mother met Givens and wanted to connect her with her son.
“I decided not to meet anyone outside my family because I was just in a bad place,” he said.
While going to hospital appointments after their transplants, they would pass each other in the hall.
Eventually, they connected on social media, and in 2016, when he was visiting his medical team at the hospital five years after the transplant, Givens was there for a tonsillectomy.
“There was this connection that we both felt,” Kobelija said.
They've been together ever since. Givens just finished chemotherapy for a type of lymphoma linked to her heart transplant. She's in remission now.
Kobelija had to have another heart transplant a few years ago.
They both know how incredibly fortunate they are, and they are both grateful for the special bond that only they can fully understand.
“One of our favorite moments … we were having our dinner and we both kind of stopped and we had to take our medicine,” he said.
The couple plans to marry, and while they haven’t picked a year, they know the day: June 9 – the date they got their transplants and the date the finally met five years later.
Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Christina Romano and edited by Perkins Broussard.