For the media

A new baby, a new heart and a new outlook on life

By The Health News Team | February 17, 2022
Laura Gaffney at Sharp Memorial Hospital

“From my journey, I learned survival is possible and that heart disease can affect anyone, no matter your age,” says Laura Gaffney, who was 22 years old when she received a heart transplant at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Laura Gaffney has a special place in her heart for Sharp HealthCare. Shortly after her birth 28 years ago at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, doctors discovered she had left ventricular non-compaction, a condition that affects the heart’s lower left chamber, called the left ventricle, making it harder for the heart to pump blood.

“Although I was born with a heart condition, I was fine growing up,” says Laura. “I had a high heart rate, so I’d take a low dose of medicine, and I avoided doing anything strenuous like playing sports. Otherwise, I was OK.”

After she turned 18, Laura received yearly checkups for her heart at Sharp Memorial Hospital until she moved to the East Coast with her husband. A few years later, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a mother following a pregnancy that had no complications.

A new life, a new challenge
Three months after giving birth to her son, however, Laura noticed her ankles were swollen. She’d press the skin with her finger, and the imprint would remain. As the weeks progressed, she had to rest frequently to catch her breath.

“I was exhausted to the point where going up the stairs in my house was a problem,” says Laura. “I got so tired, even while grocery shopping, and needed to stop after taking some steps.”

Then she began to feel a dull ache in the middle of her shoulder blades, preventing her from sleeping. Eventually, she visited the emergency room, where doctors tried to identify the reason for her pain.

Laura suspected something was wrong with her heart. And she was right — after multiple tests and evaluations, Laura, then 22 years old, learned she needed a heart transplant. Doctors suspected her pregnancy may have contributed to her heart failure.

“It took time for me to accept the situation — I recently had my baby, and now I needed a new heart,” says Laura. “But I told myself, ‘This is where I am right now to get to where I want to be.’”

The gift of life
Laura was added to the national transplant waiting list and returned to San Diego to be near both her family and Sharp Memorial Hospital. “There was no other hospital I wanted to go to,” says Laura. “I’d always felt comfortable at Sharp. They had always taken good care of me, so I was confident with my decision.”

She was hospitalized in the ICU at Sharp Memorial while waiting for a matching organ donor. Her cardiologist, Dr. Hirsch Mehta, who specializes in advanced heart failure and heart transplantation, visited her every day.

“Laura is wise beyond her years,” says Dr. Mehta. “She maintained a positive attitude during her stay, even while being away from her son, which was difficult for her.”

Laura credits her care team for offering support. “Sharp’s staff members gave me hope, and I saw how the department cares so much about their work. I became close with many doctors and nurses. Dr. Mehta truly comforted me because he understood how I felt as a fellow parent,” she says.

After waiting in the ICU for four months, Laura was able to receive a heart transplant. Her surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Adamson, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Showing her gratitude through giving to others
Once recovered, Laura became involved with the American Heart Association’s efforts to raise awareness of heart disease. She has participated in the organization’s annual Heart Walk every year since her transplant surgery.

“I want to support fellow patients with a heart condition and honor individuals who didn’t survive from the disease,” says Laura.

Today, Laura continues to volunteer with the organization while working full time. She feels grateful that both she and her son are healthy.

“From my journey, I learned survival is possible and that heart disease can affect anyone, no matter your age,” says Laura. “It’s so important to check on your health and make sure nothing goes undetected.”

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Sharp.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Mehta, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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