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Middle School Assistant Principal Receives New Heart

In 2006, Erika Carter-Rolle had a bad cold that wouldn’t go away. A few months later, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy– a condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weaker, and often leads to heart failure.

The diagnosis was devastating for Erika, an assistant principal at M.A. Milam K-8 Center in Hialeah, Florida.

Though she continued to work, her condition worsened. She suffered a stroke, consecutively had transient ischemic attacks, more commonly known as “mini strokes,” and had a pacemaker implanted to resynchronize her heart rhythms.

In 2011, Erika retained fluid around her heart and in her right lung. She was then diagnosed with congestive heart failure. While walking around her school campus in early 2015, Erika became fatigued. It was then that she realized more advanced care was needed. Soon after, her doctors told her she needed a heart transplant.

She faced this new challenge with her usual determination and positive attitude.

“I’m a warrior,” Erika told herself. “I’m going to make it through this.”

To assist her while she waited for a donor heart, UHealth/Jackson  cardiologist Dr. Sandra Chaparro, recommended that Erika have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted, which would help the heart pump oxygen.

In October 2015, Erika received the call that she hoped would come. A donor heart was available.

In a four-hour surgery, UHealth/Jackson transplant surgeons Drs. Matthias Loebe and Nicolas Brozzi gave Erika a new heart. She calls that day her “second birthday.”

“Before the surgery, I constantly reflected on how I was living before,” she said. “It was like the Lord sat me down and said ‘you’re going to take a break and look at life.’ This is my second chance.”

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