CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Feb. 7 is National Wear Red Day, as part of a push for heart disease awareness by the American Heart Association.
Today also marks the 18th anniversary of a local woman's new heart.
At 15 years old, Candice Monroe was an otherwise healthy teen, who thought she had the flu.
“Out of nowhere, I started coughing. They were flu-like symptoms that wouldn’t go away,” said Monroe.
After being misdiagnosed twice with dehydration and bronchitis, she was getting worse and quickly.
The Massillon-Perry sophomore learned that she had an enlarged heart, from cardiomyopathy.
“Blood wasn’t pumping in and out the right way, and it was causing the shortness of breath, the coughing,” she said.
Her case was so severe; she was sent immediately to the Cleveland Clinic.
“It was just to the put that I couldn’t sit up, couldn’t stand or walk, without getting shortness of breath,” said Monroe.
She was told she wouldn’t make it to see her 16th birthday if she didn’t get a heart transplant.
Two and a half weeks later, she did.
But she still sees what she calls a battle wound every day when she looks in the mirror and remembers what she has been through and that she’ll never be out of the woods.
“Eighteen years later, I feel like I am normal. Obviously, have a reminder every day. I take about 16 medications a day,” she said.
The life expectancy for a transplanted heart is only about 10 years.
But with the help of medical advancements, Monroe hopes to makes this heart last as long as possible.
“Flashback to 2002, I could barely walk, but I just completed my first 5K, which might not seem like a long run, but it was huge for me,” she said.
She's using her new lease on life to travel, and stay fit and active. Monroe now volunteers with the American Heart Association sharing her story.
Molly Palmer, with the American Heart Association, said Candice’s work is part of their effort to raise much-needed funds.
“There had to be 21 research projects shelves because of a $4 million funding gap,” Palmer said.
“I hope by sharing my story it will empower others to want to take care of themselves. To want to get that check-up if they haven’t gone to the doctor,” Monroe said.