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Heart recipient Lara, smiling and wearing a black jacket and surrounded by her smiling mother on the left, who is holding a small tan dog, and her smiling father on the right
Green silhouette of a heart

Lara Guroff

Heart failure slowed Lara down, but a generous heart donor has given her back her life full of love, family, and adventure.

Originally from outside of Washington, D.C., and more recently from San Francisco, Lara Guroff has worked as a meeting and event planner as well as an interior designer. But above all, this bold and busy woman is focused on her family. In the midst of the pandemic, she followed her brother and his family to the Portland area, where she has been thrilled to have a front row seat, watching her nephew and two nieces grow up.

Lara has always been an adventurer at heart, a lover of dance, Pilates and yoga, and travel. But over the years, she’s had to fight for her health and mobility. As a teenager, Lara had to have surgery to lengthen her Achilles tendons. Then, in her 20s, she learned she has a rare form of muscular dystrophy known as Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy. This is characterized by weakness and degeneration of some muscles, stiffness and contracture of some joints, and abnormalities affecting the heart. In Lara’s case, she developed cardiomyopathy which, over time, led to heart failure. In 2014, she had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted, but soon after she began to have arrythmias.

After Lara’s heart began to fail, it took her some time to accept that she truly had a serious health problem. She explains, “I didn’t believe I was that sick because I was still able to do yoga, walk my dog every day, work, and take care of myself.” In the months leading up to transplant, however, she began to see where she was slowing down. “Walking up my hill twice a day with my dog, Maks, was a slow process, stopping multiple times to catch my breath. Climbing stairs, forget it. Half a flight in, I’d be so out of breath.” Eventually, her ejection fraction – the amount of blood the heart pumps out, which should be 55-60%, decreased to 25%.

Lara was officially placed on the transplant waiting list in January 2022. Just over a month later, on Valentine’s Day, she got “the call.”

Woman in a dress, raising both arms in "victory" while standing in front of the Louvre in Paris“I was sitting at my desk in my apartment, wrapping up my work day. My mom was in town and staying with me. She was in the kitchen getting ready to prepare a Valentine’s Day dinner (lobster tails and chocolate mousse) that we had been planning for over a week. When my phone rang I just knew it was THE call.”

Thanks to her heart donor, Lara is back to her active, adventurous life. She walks Maks without losing her breath and bakes birthday cakes for her family. And this past summer, she took her new heart to Paris on vacation. And in all she does, her donor and their family are never far from her thoughts.

 “I have sent a letter to my donor’s family and shared my gratitude and condolences for their loss. I am incredibly fortunate to have this bonus time to continue to experience life and all its simple pleasures, emotional ups and downs, and new opportunities yet to come.”

For those who are wondering if they should register as a donor Lara has this advice: “Do your research to understand what the impact can be. Know at the end of the day that it is the greatest impact you could ever hope to have in your lifetime.”