Living for 2: 'Nightline' Returns to Mayo Clinic Organ Transplant Unit


Danielson, now 31, said she's hardly the same person she was before her double transplant.

"You definitely have a different appreciation for life," she said. "Life is fragile. ... I've gotten really good about not freaking out about the small stuff."

While waiting for her transplant, Danielson wondered when or even if she would be able to get on with her life. Today, she's back at work at the local ABC affiliate, WDIO, in Duluth, and has a new boyfriend.

"She went through something that would have killed most people, and she doesn't seem to think she's special, but she is," her boyfriend said. "You look around the world, and there's a lot of bad things out there. She reminds you that it's not all bad."

A year ago, Danielson feared the day her future donor would meet a tragic end, even though it might give her life.

"You definitely go through a period of mourning for this stranger, for this angel who came into your life and saved you," she said.

There isn't a day that passes without thinking about her donor, she said.

"I don't know who she was or where she was from or how she ended up becoming my donor, but I still manage to think about her every day, because without her and her family I would not be here right now," she said. "I'm made of two people now."

As for the others we met at Mayo Clinic, Gordon Karels is doing well, back at the driving range and vacationing with his family this summer in the Black Hills. Colter Meinert was nine years old when he got his second heart transplant while we were reporting our initial story. A year later, he is off his IV medication, has completed third grade and, after a summer of camping, is looking forward to fourth. Charles Long received his new heart in April last year, and Richard Loeffler got his in July. Joey Gill, 21, got his kidneys the same day as Jessica got her organs, but from different donors. Penny Pearson improved enough to be discharged from Mayo, but she, like Barbara Carpenter, remains among the 118,000 Americans still waiting.

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