Milton Mitchell, Maryland
A hereditary blood condition called Amyloidosis broke my heart. This is a disease that will eventually attack and destroy all your organs, and it got my heart and liver before the miracles of modern medicine turned my life around.
When I was diagnosed in 2011, I had an enlarged heart, and over the next few months it got progressively worse. In the hospital going through testing and various procedures, they thought I was going to die. I was put on several medicines (Thank you, medical science!), and though I didn’t like taking them, they did help for a while.
But in 2014, I was back in the hospital with heart failure and fluid issues elevated to grave condition. I learned I needed a new heart AND a new liver. It was a very scary time. A dual transplant is no small deal, but it was my only choice. In July 2014, I became the proud and grateful owner of my new heart and liver (Thank you, medical science and thank you donor!).
Not long after that, I became an advocate for the American Heart Association’s (AHA) grassroots network, You’re the Cure. Now I tell my story to help others, and to explain why AHA’s policy efforts are so imperative. I’ve gone to visit legislators to talk about the need for funding for medical research, and I’m living, walking testimony. That experience really made an impression on me. I’ve also participated in a rally for medical research, helped recruit new advocates at the annual HeartWalk, and shared messages with my legislators about the need for healthy kid’s meals, medical research, and more.
To those affected by heart disease/stroke and my fellow advocates I’d like to say:
Stay strong. Remain focused. Have faith and hold on. Even through times of weakness, hold on. You may not understand some of the things you're going through, but hold on - laugh through it. It may be painful, but laugh and cry through. Reach deep, down deep, and I guarantee you will find your own personal method of dealing with it all. I found laughter, smiling and being as happy as I can makes all the difference in the WORLD.
Today I am an Amyloid-free heart and liver transplant recipient. I am happy and I am alive. I think it’s important that those of us who have had life events like I have to use their voice to help others. That’s what I am going to do, at every opportunity. I hope you do too.
Milton with part of his awesome support system, his Mom and sister Sheila