A pediatric heart transplant patient from Stanford Medicine will ride on the Donate Life Rose Parade float to raise awareness about organ donation
Megan Mehta is an energetic, passionate sophomore at UC Berkeley with a zest for life. She fills her days with activities close to her heart – be it as a writer for Berkeley Political Reviewresidential president of her sorority, or a member of the Society of Women Engineers.
Every day means so much more because she thought she wouldn’t live to see them. At age 8, she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that makes it progressively harder for the heart to pump blood over time.
“I was at Lucile Packard Stanford Children’s Hospital for about three weeks, just slowly recovering, getting my strength back 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 up everything because she was constantly tired, she had trouble walking without taking a break every few minutes. She could no longer pursue her passions or go on trips.
“During this period before my transplant, everything was kind of gray,” she explained. “There was a bit of color here and there, but it was very bland and boring. I am a child and I could not do childish things. I just didn’t feel like I was living.”
Her condition continued to deteriorate to the point of heart failure.
“When I first met Megan in October 2015, her heart disease had worsened to the point where we thought a transplant 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 for the volume of pediatric heart transplants.
Megan’s doctors, Dr. Hollander and John Dykes, MD, put her on the waiting list for a status 1A heart transplant, which is given to patients with the most urgent need.
Then, on February 24, 2016, four months after she was listed, Megan got a call that there was a match. She got a new heart.
“I felt like I was freed from the shackles that bound me,” she said. “Immediately after the heart transplant, I felt like I could really see the color of life. The best way to describe it is if you turn up the saturation of an Instagram photo to maximum – everything is bright and alive.”
Paying tribute to her donor
The first thing Megan did was go camping with her family. She also traveled to Hawaii and Europe.
“I remember three months after the transplant I could hear my heartbeat non-stop,” she said. “I heard it sitting, running.” Some people might freak out about that, but I thought it was amazing because it was a constant reminder that I was happy and alive.”
Megan has since had follow-up appointments with her primary care cardiologist, Elizabeth Proffitt, MD, and continues to do well.
Outside of extracurricular activities and schoolwork, advocacy has become a big part of her life, and Megan has devoted much of her time to helping future patients like her. When she returned to high school, she saw a real opportunity to promote organ donation in her community, as her classmates were on their way to getting their driver’s licenses. She founded several clubs, including the first high school chapter of Student Organ Donation Advocates (SODA), and organized organ donor registration drives through Donor Network West. They will now promote organ donation at the national level.
“We are so excited to have Megan represent Stanford Children’s in the Rose Parade,” said Dr. Hollander. “When she’s on that float, we’ll all be there in spirit with her as she cheers on not only our hospital, but organ transplant recipients and donor families everywhere.”
‘turning the corner’
The theme of the 2023 parade is “Turning the Corner,” in honor of limitless potential and the ability to rise above what each new year brings.
For Megan, riding the Donate Life float is the perfect way to ring in the new year. She is using 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 color in life.
“This is such an incredible honor,” she said. “It’s recognition that I’ve been able to make a difference in this community about something I’m really passionate about.” But this is my donor’s legacy, in my mind. All I can do is make sure I live my best life to ensure this gift doesn’t go to waste. I am forever grateful for this gift of life because it gave me the opportunity to live and live well.”
Learn more about our pediatric heart failure/heart transplant program >