Transplant recipient uses new heart to spread love to others

1 year after surgery, Laquisha Mathis fulfilling dream to become foster parent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One year after a mother of five received a heart transplant that saved her life, she hopes to share her new heart by becoming a licensed foster parent. 

News4Jax has been following the story of Laquisha Mathis, who was told in February 2015 that she only had six months to live after being diagnosed with cardiomypothy and congestive heart failure.

Mathis would pray daily, hoping doctors would find her a new heart before her old one gave out.

Several months later, doctors told her that a donor heart became available and Mathis underwent successful surgery at the Mayo Clinic last November.

“He said, ‘We have a heart potential for you. We have an offer for you,’” Mathis said.

Mathis said she was granted a miracle and she is happier and healthier than ever before.

"I have two birthdays -- Dec. 8, 1979, and Nov. 4, 2015, when my life changed," Mathis said. 

Last week, Mathis celebrated her "first birthday" in a new home where she can give all of her new heart to her children.

"Seeing my daughter walking; she's potty training because she was in diapers last time. Now she's about to be 3," Mathis said. "My boys are teenagers now and it's just like everything has changed so much and I would have missed all of that if I didn't get my transplant."

Mathis has fewer medications to take but she still has the scar from the surgery that she calls a "zipper."

"That's how they tell us to look at it so we don't feel ashamed of our bodies. They look at it as a zipper," Mathis said. "And it's a gift from God. It's a gift from the donor's family that I'm here."

To thank that family, Mathis was allowed to write a letter this week to express her gratitude and express her wishes to meet them.

"I told them they will always by my family, whether I get a chance to meet them or not, because they lost a loved one so I can be here and I will always be grateful and thankful for that," she said. 

To show her appreciation to the community, Mathis is following through with the promise that she made before her surgery. In a few weeks, she will fulfill her dream of becoming a licensed foster parent in hopes of continuing to share her new heart with others.

"Someone gave me life. Someone gave me a second chance and opportunity to be here, to help someone else who's going through the same thing and help other people and their families who are going through the same thing that I went through," Mathis said. "Just to give love back to the community."