During one of the hardest times in her life, New Mexico mother Sarah Bradley got a message that gave her hope.
“I was like, I know what you’re going through and I know what you’re about to feel probably before you even feel it,” said the woman who sent Bradley a message, Amanda Gabaldon.
In October 2015, Bradley was waiting for a heart transplant and doctors told her, her chances of ever getting one were slim.
“I was told I only had a 2 percent chance of ever finding a match and that I needed to pray for a miracle,” said Bradley.
Earlier that year, Bradley was 32 weeks pregnant with her second son and she didn’t feel well.
“I had different symptoms of what most doctors would say are pregnancy symptoms, the swelling of the feet, I was having trouble breathing, just tightness in the chest, I was coughing,” said Bradley.
Doctors first thought it was pneumonia because of the liquid found in Bradley’s lungs but soon realized whatever was wrong with Bradley, could not be fixed at her local Roswell hospital.
“They flew me from Roswell to Albuquerque. In Albuquerque, I was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy,” said Bradley.
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that causes heart failure in pregnant women. It is rare, only affecting 1,000 women in the United States every year.
In 2015, KRQE News 13 ran a story on Bradley when she was desperately searching for a heart that would save her life.
One of the people who saw that story was someone was very familiar with Bradley’s rare diagnosis.
“About six weeks after delivery, I went into full cardiac failure,” said Gabaldon.
In 2013, Gabaldon was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.
“This isn’t anything they tell you about in the thousands of pamphlets you get from your OBGYN,” said Gabaldon.
Gabaldon was forced to fight this disease she’d never heard of. She tried to go to support groups but found the people in them, mostly elderly men, unrelatable.
“I’m a young woman. A new mom. I didn’t exactly want to tell them the problems I was going through,” said Gabaldon.
Gabaldon lived with an ‘LVAD’, a device that helped her heart function normally, for eight months. During the time, she was forced to turn down several opportunities for a heart transplant.
“I actually got three calls for hearts. I was too sick or not sick enough and my antibodies were too high to accept a heart. So, I had to, unfortunately, deny two different hearts,” said Gabaldon.
Gabaldon finally received a call for a heart her body would accept in July 2014.
Gabaldon’s transplant went great and she was living a mostly normal life a little more than a year after her transplant.
That’s when Gabaldon saw Bradley’s story. Gabaldon still had the feeling that she was alone in fighting the battle against Peripartum Cardiomyopathy because, until then, she’d never known another young woman who’d had it.
She instantly felt connected to Bradley and compelled to reach out to her. Gabaldon sent her a message on Facebook.
“I was like, I know what you’re going through and I know what you’re about to feel probably before you even feel it,” said Gabaldon.
Since then, the two have found comfort in each other during good times and bad.
Gabaldon was there for Bradley when she received a heart transplant doctors were almost positive she’d never get.
“When I received a call on Easter Sunday , I just knew that this had to be it and this was my perfect match,” said Bradley.
Bradley and Gabaldon are both doing well, following their transplants and are extremely thankful to have had one another.
“What I went through is extremely scary and I would never wish it upon anybody but to have someone that I could talk to about literally anything was a blessing,” said Bradley.
Gabaldon and Bradley both want to make sure no other woman going through a trying medical diagnosis feels alone like they did. They encourage any woman going through a hard time to contact them.
To contact them, email Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email Sarah at email@example.com.
Gabaldon is also planning to launch a new foundation and support group next month.
April is Donate Life Month. If you’d like more information on becoming an organ donor, click here.