RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Every day, 18 people in the United States die waiting on a transplant, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
This Valentines Day, they’re encouraging people to consider becoming a donor as part of National Donor Day.
Zina Coles is waiting for a heart at Richmond's VCU Medical Center.
Coles plays video games in her room to keep her up and moving. She’s always trying to reel her doctors and nurses into the room to join her video game dance parties.
"When I'm in my room, I dance, I bowl and enjoy myself. I never have a dull moment,” said Coles.
Every moment is worth living to the fullest for the Newport News woman who now spends all of her days in VCU's Pauley Heart Center.
Family and friends know her as Pinkey. Staff and patients know her as the life of the tenth floor party.
Zina has an artificial heart and waits for that golden moment when a real one comes and she no longer relies on big blue. That’s the machine she’s hooked to in order to keep her artificial heart going.
Coles has big plans for this special day. “Well, the plan is to get my heart for Valentines. It’s not over yet” she exclaimed. Doctors monitor Zina’s antibody levels and wait for them to drop so she can get that heart transplant.
It’s something she’s gone through before. Unfortunately the time before, her body rejected the heart. Since then she’s been using a portable device called a Freedom Driver. That’s about the size of a back pack and allows Zina to be mobile.
However, her doctor says she ran into problems with her antibody levels and had to check back into the Pauley Heart Center so she could get intensive treatment to help lower her antibody levels.
That means she’s hooked up to big blue until that happens. But, Zina is optimistic and staff say her upbeat attitude is infectious.
She says her faith, family and good friends from back home in Williamsburg and Newport News keep her lifted. She gives a special nod to her husband Maurice, who makes sure she doesn’t have down days.
She knows that’s a must. Zina and her husband have four children and they’re caring for two nieces as well. In 2009, shortly after finding out she needed a new heart, Zina’s sister in law was murdered. That’s when she and her husband stepped in to care for the kids.
Now, her focus is on getting through this for her family. Though she’s connected to big blue, Zina doesn't let that slow her down. She keeps her spirits up and the spirits of those around her. Dr. Daniel Tang says that’s a great thing. He says that positive upbeat attitude will take her a long way.
"When we finally match a heart to her, she'll be able to recover post op in a far better place than otherwise" said Dr. Tang.
So for now, Coles says she will continue to live each day like it’s her last. She says she’ll just enjoy every moment and not let her situation get the best of her.
For other heart patients, she hopes she can inspire them to have faith that their happy heart day is coming, too.