Celebrating the Gift of Life and Her Donor’s Legacy Through Advocacy

A Stanford Medicine Children’s Health pediatric heart transplant patient will be riding on the Donate Life Rose Parade float to raise awareness for organ donation

Megan Mehta is an energetic, passionate second-year college student at UC Berkeley with a zest for life. She fills her days with activities close to her heart—whether that’s as a writer for the Berkeley Political Review, housing chair of her sorority, or a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

Each day means so much more because she thought she would not live to see them. At 8 years old, she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that makes it progressively more difficult for the heart to pump blood over time.

“I was at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for about three weeks, just recovering slowly, gaining strength again, and trying to figure out how to rebuild my life.”

Before her diagnosis, Megan led a very active life playing basketball and practicing tae kwon do. But she had to give it all up because she was constantly tired, having trouble walking without taking breaks every few minutes. She could no longer pursue her passions or go on trips.

“During this period before my transplant, everything was just sort of gray,” she explained. “There was a little bit of color here and there, but it just felt very bland and dull. I’m a kid, and I couldn’t do kid things. It just didn’t feel like I was living.”

Her condition continued to worsen to the point of heart failure.

“When I first met Megan in October 2015, her heart disease had worsened to a point where we thought transplantation was probably the best option for her,” said Seth Hollander, MD, medical director of pediatric heart transplantation at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, which is the number one hospital in the Western United States in pediatric heart transplant volumes.

Megan’s doctors, Dr. Hollander and John Dykes, MD, placed her on the transplant wait list for a heart at status 1A, which is given to patients with the most urgent need.

Then, on Feb. 24, 2016, four months after being placed on the list, Megan received a call that there was a match. She got a new heart.

“It felt like I’ve been freed from the shackles that were chaining me down,” she said. “Immediately after the heart transplant, I felt like I could actually see the color in life. The best way to describe it is if you turn the saturation on an Instagram photo to maximum—everything is bright and vibrant.”

Honoring her donor

The first thing Megan did was go camping with her family. She’s also traveled to Hawaii and Europe.

“I remember for three months posttransplant, I could hear my heartbeat nonstop,” she said. “I could hear it sitting, running. Some people might get freaked out by that, but I thought it was incredible because it was a constant reminder that I’m happy and alive.”

Megan has since had follow-up appointments with her primary care cardiologist, Elizabeth Profita, MD, and continues to do well.

Aside from her extracurricular activities and schoolwork, advocacy became a large part of her life, with Megan dedicating much of her time to help future patients like her. When she went back to high school, she saw a real opportunity to promote organ donation in her community, as her classmates were all about to get their driver’s licenses. She founded multiple clubs, including the very first high school chapter of Student Organ Donation Advocates (SODA), and organized organ donor registration drives through Donor Network West. Now, she’ll be promoting organ donation at a national level.

“We’re so excited that Megan is going to represent Stanford Children’s at the Rose Parade,” Dr. Hollander said. “When she’s on that float, we’re all going to be there in spirit with her, as she’s cheering on not only our hospital, but also organ transplant recipients and donor families everywhere.”

‘Turning the Corner’

The 2023 parade theme is “Turning the Corner,” in celebration of the unlimited potential and opportunities to rise above that each new year brings.

For Megan, riding on the Donate Life float is the perfect way for her to ring in the new year. She’s seizing yet another opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation and show how this gift can give others, like her, a second chance to see the color in life.

“This is such an incredible honor,” she said. “It’s recognition that I was able to make a difference in this community regarding something that I’m really passionate about. But this is my donor’s legacy, in my mind. All I can do is make sure I live the best way I can to ensure that this gift does not go to waste. I’m forever thankful for this gift of life because it gave me an opportunity to live and live well.”

Learn more about our pediatric heart failure/heart transplant program >


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