Last year marked a new beginning for Keisha Dulin.
The 41-year-old Canton resident is continuing to heal after receiving a new heart in 2020 – after four years waiting for a new one.
“I am just so grateful every day,” she said. “I stay faithful.”
Dulin spent more time in hospitals than most children. She was born with only three heart valves and had two open heart surgeries before she was 8 years old. Even so, she was active as an adolescent and adult – while her condition was gradually damaging her most vital organ.
“I was thinking I was doing okay, but really I wasn’t,” she said. “I had shortness of breath and chest pain, but I kinda blew it off. When I had shortness of breath, I’d just sit down. It was getting worse and worse.”
She went of the transplant waiting list in 2016. Meanwhile, fate dealt her another tragic blow. Two years ago, she lost her husband of 15 years, Robert, in a traffic accident. Robert was driving with their son, Shane, at the time and threw himself in front of him when he saw the impact was unavoidable.
“We’ve been pushing through with friends, family and North Ridge Church,” she said. “We’re holding on.”
Things came to a head last May, when Keisha went into the hospital for a heart catherization and her care team advised her not to leave – her heart was in really bad shape, they said, and it was getting worse. They moved her up on the waiting list and the call came about three weeks later, on June 5 – they had found a match.
She said she didn’t know until doctors showed her a picture of her old heart how close she had come to death.
“It didn’t even look like a heart,” she said. “It looked like mush.”
She immediately felt better, but recovery was still difficult. Complications arose with her kidneys, forcing an extended hospital stay. She missed Shane’s 13th birthday and, because of Covid-19 protocols, the family could not visit at all. She was in the hospital for 81 days.
“You think you’re going to get right back to yourself,” she said. “I’m used to healing quick and being on the go. I had to learn how to walk again and talk again. It was frustrating.”
Now, she said she’s getting strong and getting back to the person she used to be – only healthier. Her North Ridge family came through for her again last year, too. The church has a “Love Gives” program, where members can text a dollar to go to a worthy cause. They decided to use those funds to help her and were able to pay off her car and help pay for her medical bills – about $6,000 in all.
“God will always take care of you, no matter what, if you stay faithful,” she said.
To sign up on the Organ Donor Registry, click here.