Local man, 21, thankful for new heart
UNDATED (WHDH) -- Many people are reflecting on what they are most thankful for this holiday. A 21-year-old Conn. man says he is grateful for life.
On Thanksgiving, Jeffrey Montalvo is offering a heartfelt thanks to the Massachusetts organ donor who saved him.
"It’s just incredible to be home after 5 months,” said Montalvo. "Just sitting in the hospital, it's not a 21-year-old's life."
Montalvo was admitted to the hospital after complications in his battle with non-compaction cardiomyopathy.
"I came home one day after working both jobs, went to sleep and I woke up with chest pain."
It's a rare heart condition that is also a congenital birth defect.
"We never knew, so it was quite a shocker. He did suffer from Crohn's [Disease] at the age of 16, other than that he was always healthy,” said Montalvo’s mother, Clarisa Cardona.
The diagnosis put him on the waiting list for an organ donor.
Jeffrey celebrated his 21st birthday in the hospital just waiting. He finally got a new heart earlier this month.
"He's 43. He's from bay state, Massachusetts. He was a hero. He was an organ donor. Organ donors are heroes,” said Montalvo.
Jeffrey is feeling good -- and is getting used to his second heart.
"I just have to get used to the beating."
"It's incredible. I have a pulse now. I didn't have a pulse with the LVAD and now I have a pulse."
"I find that he's given me strength because he is such a positive young man, so why am I going to buckle when he is so strong,” said Cardona.
Family and friends help keep Montalvo strong.
So now he's vigilant about getting others to sign on as organ donors.
"You're giving gifts away after you are gone. You live through somebody else. My donor is living through me right now,” said Montalvo.
This thanksgiving, the day to give thanks, is even more meaningful.
"I’m thankful for my family, my angel of a girlfriend, all the people that supported me and organ donation, the people that are organ donors because I wouldn't be here without one."
After Montalvo was diagnosed, his sisters were tested for non-compaction cardiomyopathy.
A younger sister also has it, is now on medication and will not require a heart transplant.