Runner With Heart Transplant Finishes 5K Alongside Donor’s Family

Runner's World | Megan Heizel
Karen Hill (right) with her donor's family at the Tunnel to Towers 5K; Hill (blue skirt) with friends and family on the anniversary of her surgery.  PHOTO BY MARY O'KEEFE/HOWARD HILL

One warm day in June, Karen Hill laced up her shoes for a run in New York City. The first two minutes felt easy, not so surprising because running was in her blood—both of her parents were marathoners and she’d been a runner as a teenager.

The “freeing” feeling of the run was short-lived. After 10 minutes, Hill felt spent.

“It was not a successful run,” Hill, 23, told Runner’s World, “but I was happy that I stuck to it and did it.”

Though brief, the jaunt marked a significant moment as Hill’s first real run since her freshman year of high school. It also became the first time her strides were powered by a heart that wasn’t her own.

In October last year, Hill underwent a heart transplant. She needed it because when Hill was 11 years old, she was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the heart muscle to enlarge and to stop pumping blood efficiently, triggering a host of complications.

From the time of her diagnosis through the end of college at Fordham University, symptoms of the disease—which included fatigue, shortness of breath, and other problems because it began to affect her other organs—gradually got worse. She could run until her freshman year of high school, but as her health deteriorated, staying active ceased being an option. Continue reading

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