Heart Recipient Jessica Melore Meets Teen Donor's Family for First Time

PHOTO Heart recipient Jessica Melore meets teen donors family for first time.
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Eleven years ago, Jessica Melore was a happy, healthy 16 year-old, and even the co-captain of her high school tennis team. But everything changed in one moment.

At a family dinner one night in 1998, Melore suddenly collapsed. What was not immediately clear was that she had suffered a heart attack so massive, doctors would not expect her to live.

"We were in shock that this could possibly be happening," said Ellen Melore, Jessica's mom, with tears in her eyes. "It's just a nightmare -- it's not really happening."

'Am I Going to Die?'

Jessica Melore was rushed to the hospital.

"I looked up at him and I said, 'Am I going to die?'" Melore said, recalling a conversation with her doctor. "He just looked at me and didn't say anything, and that was probably the scariest moment."

Her lungs began filling with liquid -- she was starting to crash. Her doctors did not expect her to live through the night. A priest administered last rites.

"I just pictured her room and her prom dress hanging up and everything and [thought], 'How -- how could this be happening?'" Ellen Melore said.

A heart transplant was Melore's only hope. Doctors tried for days to stabilize her and an infection in her leg led forced its amputation. The family waited, but still no heart was available.

"From day to day, minute to minute, we didn't know what was gonna happen," said Thomas Melore, Jessica's father.

But then, an experimental heart pump made Jessica a walking medical miracle. It saved her life.

Diane Sawyer interviewed Melore in April of 1999 on "Good Morning America." By then, she had been living on the pump for seven months. Sawyer asked her if she could walk and go to school.

"Well, I believe that you create your own limitations, so ... anything can take place in some way, shape, or form," Melore said.

Girl Gets a Heart

Dr. Satoshi Furukawa told Sawyer that the benefits of a heart pump far outweighed the risks because it was simply the only option.

"She would have died without this device because there's no heart sitting on a shelf for a transplantation," Furukawa said. "She needed something at that very moment, and this was the device that was sitting on our shelf."

Not only did Melore go to school, but she went on class trips and performed in the school musical. She even went to her senior prom -- all while living on the artificial heart pump.

"She's always been strong willed and had a strong personality -- but I think we really saw that strong will in her after this happened," said Matthew Melore, Jessica's brother.

Four days before her high school graduation, Jessica Melore got the call she and her family had been waiting for. A heart was available.

"We were excited about it and also nervous," said her father.

Recipient Writes Letter of Thanks to Heart Donor's Family

When she woke up from the surgery, Melore said the first thing she did was feel for her heart.

What Jessica didn't know was that at the same time she was getting a second chance at life, another young girl lost hers.

Shannon Eckert, 18, was fatally injured in a car accident. But Eckert, who loved horses and writing, turned out to be an organ donor.

In November 1999, Melore spoke again with "Good Morning America." Charles Gibson asked her if her she knew anything about the donor of her heart.

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