30 years later, heart transplant recipient living life

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A Grand Junction woman is alive today and celebrating a very special milestone.

Thirty years ago on Saturday, July 15, her life was saved when she got a heart transplant she so desperately needed. Diane Harden suffered from Cardiomyopathy and was told she had 10 years to live by doctors after getting a new heart back in 1987.

She has defied all odds and is shocking her friends and family.

"Who would've thought 30 years ago today, that we'd be sitting here and talking about Diane's 30th heart transplant anniversary and talking about the 35th coming up," Diane's sister, Linda Dixon said.

Diane received a life-saving operation on July 15, 1987, for her heart.

"I inherited my mother's disease," she said.

This disease is where the heart gets bigger and doesn't pump blood properly through the body. During her wait, there were some bumps along the way.

"One came in and it died," Harden said about a heart, "so the second one came in but it was three months later and that was tough waiting for another heart," she said.

Her new heart came from an 18-year-old who lived in Wyoming. After the operation, she wrote a heartfelt message to the young girl's mother.

"I thanked her for her daughter's heart because, without her, I wouldn't be here," she tearfully said.

Her story doesn't end there. Doctors told her she had only five to 10 years with this new heart.

"I'm sorry you guys were wrong," she said. "I'm so thankful I'm this lucky and with the Lord to go on because I've been through a lot," Harden added.

Defying all odds and hardships with a smile and positivity.

"If you have a good attitude, you're going to make it no matter if it's bad or good, but if you don't have a good attitude then you can get yourself in trouble," she said.

The record for the longest surviving person after a heart transplant is 33 years. Harden said that she's already thinking about her 35th heart birthday, and showing other transplant recipients to never lose hope.

The Donor Alliance said every person has the power to save up to 8 lives if they become an organ donor themselves.

Right now, nearly 70 percent of Coloradans are registered as organ, eye and tissue donors. That's second in the nation, according to the Donor Alliance.

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