At 16, Jessica Melore was an active tennis player and student musician who seemed the picture of good health as she started her senior year of high school. Then she suffered a massive heart attack that nearly killed her.
But after waiting on a list of thousands of Americans who needed a heart transplant, she received a new heart at Temple University hospital in Philadelphia in June 1999.
She followed her dream, heading off to school at Princeton University that same year. Now in her senior year of college, Melore has been named one of Glamour magazine's top 10 college women.
"I'm so grateful for all that I've been through and that I'm alive today and able to talk about it," Melore said on Good Morning America.
Out of the Blue
Melore said she was a "very healthy girl in the middle of tennis season," at the time she had the heart attack. She had been attending a family dinner at a restaurant, when she started feeling sick.
"First, I felt dizzy and light-headed, then a heaviness in my arms and pressure pains going from my chest up to my neck," she said in a 1999 Good Morning America interview.
Her family rushed her to the hospital, where doctors told them the news that they had a hard time believing themselves: Melore was having a heart attack. A blood clot was lodged in a main artery that prevented blood from flowing to the left side of her heart.
Because of irreparable damage to her heart tissue, doctors determined that she would need a new heart.
In the meantime, doctors implanted a left ventricular assist device called the TCI Heartmate into her abdomen, which assisted her heart to pump.
Then surgical complications forced doctors to amputate her left leg, just above the knee. She learned to walk with a prosthesis.
It seemed hard to believe that she could resume her normal life again, but she did, returning to high school, where teachers, students and members of the community greeted her with open arms. She resumed her old activities, including singing, and serving as secretary of the school's Key Club. In spring, she was elected prom queen.
Four days before graduation, and nine months after the heart attack, Melore received good news — there was a heart donor for her. Her new heart ended up coming from an 18-year-old female donor from Pennsylvania. Melore sent a letter of thank you to the young woman's family for making the decision to donate.
Once at Princeton, Melore remained as active as ever, singing in an a capella group, and dancing at school parties.