From new moms to heart transplant patients

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- It was a reunion six months in the making as Joelle Cardoza embraced Marisol Cota. The last time they saw each other, Cota was hospitalized with heart failure.

"When I first walked in, I knew where she was at. I could tell she wasn't well, not just physically, but emotionally. I knew where she was at because I was there," said Cardoza.

Four years earlier, Cardoza too had been diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy. Both of their conditions were brought on by their pregnancies.

"It is the extreme of heart failure. It is when the heart is not pumping and the muscle is not pumping," said Cardiologist Dr. Liset Stoletniy with Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Dr. Stoletniy treated the women and oversaw their heart transplants. She also connected the women in the hopes their shared experience would encourage each other.

"At first, I was scared but when I heard her story and then met her it gave me emotional support," said Cota.

Cardoza says prior to her 2016 transplant she nearly died twice and was ready to give up.

"My mom said, 'If one of your kids was in your situation, what would you tell them to do?'" said Cardoza. "And I thought, I would tell them to fight and so I did."

Cardoza says she encouraged Cota to do the same.

"When I heard she had gotten the transplant, I was just like I did a little happy dance," said Cardoza.

Both women reunited at the annual Go Red for Women luncheon at the hospital where they first met and underwent their heart transplants. The event highlights cardio vascular disease in women.

Cardoza and Cota will continue ongoing care with Dr. Stoletniy and said they will keep in touch going forward.
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