A New York woman says she feels “amazingly grateful” after receiving two organ donations and having the opportunity to meet the family of her late donor, who flew from Louisiana to the Big Apple to meet her in person.
Miriam Nieves met the family of the late Brittany Newton on Tuesday at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, where she had received treatment for advanced kidney and heart failure.
“I wasn’t able to walk. I wasn’t able to play with my grandchildren. I was going to family functions and would be lying in bed more than interacting with my family,” Nieves said. , 62, “Hello America” of his life before his organ transplants. “It’s not who I am. I’m usually the one who brings the group together so we can eat together. I constantly pull everyone together to get together. And I was just existing, I was just living truly not.”
Nieves, who is HIV-positive, will eventually undergo not one but two organ transplants. With the help of her team of doctors and surgeons in Montefiore, Nieves was matched with an HIV-positive donor, Newton, who was only 30 when she died.
Although doctors have performed HIV-to-HIV-positive organ transplants in the past, this is the world’s first instance of HIV-to-HIV-positive heart transplantation according to Montefiore Health System.
Dr. Omar Saeed, a cardiologist specializing in heart transplantation at Montefiore, is also Nieves’ cardiologist. He said successful transplants will open new perspectives for HIV-positive patients.
“It’s the courage and bravery of Miriam and the incredible act of kindness and compassion from Brittany and her family, I think, that is really at the heart of it all,” Saeed told ‘GMA’. “We can learn from it, we can all learn from it, and at the root, we can use science to expand those frontiers.”
Newton’s sister, Breanne Newton, said meeting the woman who now has a second chance to live with her late sister’s heart and kidneys was “truly a blessing”.
“It’s a blessing to know that my sister’s heart is going to be taken care of by her because she’s so kind,” Breanne Newton told “GMA.” “She kinda reminds me of my sister because she said she just likes to go out and do things and that’s how Brittany was. Brittany never sat still. She was always doing something. And just knowing that they look a little alike brings a little more joy to my life.”
Breanne Newton and Nieves say they now consider themselves family.
“When I talked to Breanne I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to meet you’ and when they walked into the room, and they got up, I just wanted to kiss them and the feeling was extremely good,” recalls Nieves. “It was a beautiful, warm, overwhelming feeling in my heart. I felt the connection. I knew the connection was there. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling even right now.”
Since they met, their message has been to encourage others to consider organ donation.
“If you are HIV-positive, please become a donor. You could save another HIV-positive person,” Nieves said, adding that “it’s not the end of the world” if you have HIV.
“If you are not HIV positive,” she added, “be a donor because you could save the life of another human being and today we need kindness in this world and we have need love and we need to give back and we need to give to each other.”
Breanne Newton also encouraged others to consider donating. “I think there should be more donors giving back. It’s good to donate an organ to save someone else’s life,” she said. “[This] brought me more closure knowing that my sister still lives through her and maybe someone else too but just to know that her organs are still there and working and working well brings me so much of joy.”
Saeed added, “We hope this case demonstrates a doorway to the incredible power HIV-positive donors have to save other people’s lives, including by donating their hearts.”
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