As a kid, Sarah Pearson was an active, happy, and social kid who was involved in both sports and music. But at the age of 9, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. For ten years, she endured physical limitations, open heart surgeries, and pacemaker adjustments. When her heart completely failed at the age of 19, Sarah was put on an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) and added to the transplant waiting list.
Sarah’s family circled around to support her as she waited for a donor heart. Her mom worked full time as a teacher while also functioning as Sarah’s primary caretaker. Sarah’s sister, Natalie remembers, “She couldn’t walk far for fear of losing her breath. Her heart worked overtime just sitting still. She was in massive pain all the time and needed 24-hour care. I wasn’t sure how long this type of life would be sustainable.”
In January 2014, the Pearsons received the call that there was a heart for Sarah.
“It was bittersweet,” recalls Natalie. “Someone had to die for her to live. She didn’t take that lightly… She knew the gift she was receiving.”
The heart transplant was transformational for Sarah’s entire family. For Sarah, it didn’t merely save her life; it renewed her hope and energy for the future. It allowed her to grow up, live on her own, and experience life as a healthy person. She was passionate about helping others, and she began working her way through a list of things she wanted to accomplish in her lifetime.
Two short years after Sarah received the gift of life, she came down with a virus and began to experience rejection of her donated heart. On July 10, 2016, Sarah passed away having experienced more suffering in a lifetime than many people know, but doing so with grace and dignity beyond her years. At the time of her death, this passionate donation advocate made a final gift of her own, donating her corneas.