Maryland Woman, Surgeon Run Marathon Together After Heart Transplant

Jayde Kelly spent five months in the hospital recovering after her transplant

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A Maryland woman competed in a marathon after recovering from a heart transplant— and brought her surgeon along for the ride. She shared her remarkable road to recovery with News4.

"I've been a runner since as far as I can remember. My mom used to tell me that she used to catch me by grabbing my pigtails. It's my happy place," Jayde Kelly said.

But one day, it came to a sudden stop.

"My heart was, like, beating kind of funny. So, I just thought it was the caffeine and I told my friend … I'm like, 'I need to lay off the coffee,'" she said.

It turned out that Kelly had giant cell myocarditis, a rare and life-threatening heart disorder.

Doctors told her she needed a heart transplant.

"Because she was so sick. She received … a device, a pump that was used as a temporary strategy until she could receive a heart transplant," said Dr. Ezequiel Molina, a cardiac surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C.

"Throughout my career, I have transplanted approximately 120 to 130 transplants and she is only the second one that I have transplanted that had ventricular devices or ventricular assist device on both sides of the heart," Molina said.

Even more unusual was the type of heart donor Kelly would need. It took several years of waiting, but Kelly eventually got a phone call with the good news: there was a perfect match and her surgery was scheduled for the start of 2020.

The operation was long and challenging -- and so was her road to recovery.

"She spent several months in the hospital after the transplant. She pretty much had to relearn to walk again. That's how bad it was for her.

"I got extremely weak and I lost a lot of muscle mass and a lot of body weight," Kelly said.

She developed pneumonia, kidney failure and spent five months in the hospital during the early days of the pandemic.

Doctors say her recovery is nothing short of remarkable. Once she got home, she was determined to compete again, this time asking her surgeon to join her.

They spent months training and this past November, finished their first half marathon together crossing the finish line hand in hand.

"That race is probably the best race in my whole life," Kelly said.

Molina said Kelly actually saved him.

"I have to say that she saved my life as well because this came to my life at a time where I wasn't very active in the middle of the COVID pandemic, very stressed out about working long hours, dealing with very sick patients and stressful operations.
And I have to say I wasn't really taking care of myself," Molina said.

"Finishing in the race was very emotional. It was one of the best days of my life," he said.

Kelly isn’t done yet and said her ultimate goal is to be the first woman with a heart transplant to ever compete in the Ironman.

She said she hopes her story will inspire others to give back, whether it’s donating blood or becoming an organ donor.

Molina still runs and did a marathon with his wife.

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