Five years ago, Angela Colosi, 54, was in Hawaii on vacation with her husband.
While they snorkeled in crowded shallow waters, someone bumped into her and she hit her leg off of a piece of coral. When she went to the surface of the water to check on her leg, she recognized she was severely out of breath.
“My husband helped me get out of the water, and that’s when my lips began to turn blue,” Colosi said. “But a few minutes later, it passed, and I felt fine, so I didn’t go to the hospital.”
A month or two after her vacation, Colosi went to her annual physical. At the end of the appointment, the Buffalo, New York, native briefly mentioned what happened to her while she was snorkeling, and her doctors immediately ordered a battery of tests.
Doctors discovered she had a bad microvalve in her heart and would need a surgical replacement. While in surgery, she was officially diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.
“I spent many years volunteering for the American Heart Association,” Colosi said. “I knew it was a death sentence. My heart was slowly dying.”
For three years, Colosi managed her illness with medication and different treatments, but eventually, her cardiologist recommended a heart transplant.
While researching transplant centers she found out about UPMC through word of mouth, ultimately taking the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Pittsburgh.
“I immediately fell in love with the facilities, the staff and the doctors at UPMC,” Colosi said. “I turned to my trusted cardiologist back home, and he had a frank conversation with me. He told me if I was his family member, he would choose UPMC.”
From that point on, Colosi began traveling between Buffalo and Pittsburgh for various appointments and procedures. Because her heart condition wasn’t severe, her name was near the bottom of the heart transplant list for two years.
As her illness progressed, Colosi needed to be in the Pittsburgh area for treatments and a minor heart procedure. However, due to her involvement in an important charity event, she was hoping to get one more chance to go home.
“For years, I’ve been a part of a charity back in Buffalo where we are building houses for women and children,” Colosi said. “Because I was the auction chair, I asked my doctors if I could go back to Buffalo for a few days.”
Colosi was cleared by her doctors to head home temporarily, and while she was at the charity event, one of the other leaders went to the podium and announced to the hundreds of people in attendance that Colosi was going to need a heart transplant. Without prompting, the crowd extended their hands to her and began to pray.
“This wasn’t even a religious event, which made it even more touching,” Colosi said.
Exactly 24 hours after the prayer, she said, her phone rang. There was a heart waiting for her in Pittsburgh.
“I’m not someone who faints, but I almost fainted in that moment,” Colosi said. “I couldn’t help but be in awe of the miracle.”
On Oct. 28, 2018, Colosi made the drive to Pittsburgh with her husband to receive a successful heart transplant. This happened to be just two days after the mass shooting that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
“There was so much death that day, and here I was getting this chance at life,” she said.
Colosi’s surgeon, Dr. Arman Kilic, said the transplant went seamlessly.
“She was reasonably stable but was symptomatic from her heart failure and had quite a bit of fatigue and shortness of breath,” he said. “We were able to find a suitable donor and she did very well postoperatively. Last time I saw her, she was feeling great and had no major issues in terms of her recovery.”
“I can’t say enough about UPMC and the nurses and doctors who helped me,” said Colosi, six months after surgery. “I knew I made the right decision, and I’ve never looked back since.”