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Wyoming woman reveals how she underwent miraculous third heart transplant 36 years after her first operation and how she was hospitalized weeks leading up to life-saving surgery because her ‘condition worsened’

A detention officer who nearly died as a child says she feels good about God testing her as she comes to grips with her fourth heart.

A detention officer is almost ready to return to work after recovering from her third heart transplant surgery in as many decades.

Jenn Green, 49, captivated Wyoming as a child when thousands of people helped raise money to make her the state’s youngest-ever heart transplant patient.

The Gillette girl was days from death when she went under the knife as a 13-year-old in what was still a groundbreaking procedure and required intervention from the state’s governor.

Doctors thought she might have 15 years to live, but 36 years later she is putting her fourth heart to the test after the “best, fastest recovery I’ve ever had.”

“The most important thing I learned is how much God has watched over me.”

Jenn Green, 49, of Gillette, Wyoming, prepares to return to work after her third heart transplant in as many decades

She says God has been

She says God has been “really testing me all along, but now I’m at the point where I’m really comfortable with that.”

Jenn with a colleague at the Campbell County Sheriff's Department, where she spent her career as a detention officer

Jenn with a colleague at the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department, where she spent her career as a detention officer

Green was a happy, healthy schoolgirl when, at age 13, she started getting sick with flu-like symptoms.

Doctors were at first dismissive and then baffled by her symptoms until it was discovered that her heart had grown abnormally large.

She continued to deteriorate, but doctors found it difficult to believe that someone so young could have serious heart disease.

“They kept telling me I would be fine and that in about 10 years I might need a transplant,” she said. Cowboy stands daily.

“And then it just got worse, so we ended up going to another doctor in Casper, and he sent me straight from there to Denver. They pretty much put me on the transplant list at that point.”

At the University of Colorado Hospital, she was finally correctly diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, in which a common viral infection can eventually lead to severe heart failure.

“I deteriorated so quickly, which was very unusual for someone my age, so they put me at the top of the transplant list because I was so bad,” she said.

‘It was quite traumatizing and confusing because I had obviously always been healthy up until that point. ‘Then I was basically just sick all the time. I was throwing up and by the time I got to Denver. I was sleeping the whole time.

“At one point I was just ready to die.”

Jenn (pictured left with younger sister Heather) was a happy 13-year-old when she was first diagnosed with heart disease

Jenn (pictured left with younger sister Heather) was a happy 13-year-old when she was first diagnosed with heart disease

She says her mother Cynthia (left) has been with her every step of the way

She says her mother Cynthia (left) has been with her every step of the way

1709274458 76 Wyoming woman reveals how she underwent miraculous third heart transplant

“You just have to ask yourself, ‘Do you want to live or do you want to die?’ she said

Without health insurance to cover a transplant, her prospects looked bleak until people at home became aware and an extraordinary fundraising effort took off.

Local newspapers and TV stations picked up the case, with a local DJ staying awake during a 60-hour sponsored radio broadcast.

A massive $90,000 was raised, but it took intervention from then-Governor Mike Sullivan to expand the state’s Medicaid program to include heart transplants for a single month before the operation could proceed.

The surgery was a success, but she soon discovered that her problems were just beginning.

“It was hard because you come out of this surgery and it feels like you’ve been hit by a truck because your chest just got busted open,” she said.

“And then they tell me how to take all these medications and get back in shape.

“I would say this was probably the hardest recovery because it was all new to me.”

After a year of intensive rehabilitation, she was ready to take on the world again and after her studies she got a job in a local supermarket.

But heart transplants are never easy and in 1995 doctors realized her body was slowly rejecting the new heart and she was diagnosed with coronary artery disease.

“It’s very typical for transplant patients to develop coronary artery disease, but they still don’t really know why that is,” she said.

Her careful lifestyle meant it was another fifteen years before she had to go back on the transplant waiting list, and in the meantime she took a job as a detention officer with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department.

“At first I didn’t notice it, and then when I finally started noticing it, there were times when I would wake up in the night and not be able to breathe properly,” she said.

“And it just kept happening as my heart got worse and worse.

“I remember thinking, ‘Do I want to do this again?’ because the first time was so hard.

“But you just have to ask yourself, ‘Do you want to live or do you want to die?’ I had a great job and I had great friends and great family, and so I wasn’t ready to die.”

Some patients wait years to find a suitable donor, but Jenn was only on the list for two months before she was called in.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” she said.

‘Because of my size – I’m smaller – you have more options.

“If you have a man who is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds, he needs to have a heart that functions for his size, so the donor pool goes down.

“For me, I could take the heart of a woman or a child. That’s why I think it happened so quickly.

“I recovered very quickly from that and within three months I was back to work,” she said.

But she wasn’t so lucky that time, and in late 2021 she was signed up for a remarkable third transplant after a recurrence of coronary artery disease.

“This one surprised me a little bit, because my first heart lasted a little over 20 years,” she said.

‘But they warned me that that was a good option, because with every transplant you run a greater risk of rejection and other problems.’

This time, surgeons in Colorado didn’t want to take the risk of another surgery and Jenn had to undergo a series of tests before being accepted by the world-leading Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California.

Surgeons had to cut through a forest of scar tissue in July last year to perform the operation and also give her a new kidney.

Years of heavy medication had taken its toll on her other organs and her kidneys were severely damaged.

“But by the time I got that transplant, my kidneys were getting worse and worse, and so they decided that if they did the heart, they were just going to do the kidneys because I was going to need it soon anyway,” she said.

But this time she has decided to get back into fitness at her own pace and plans to work out for a year before returning to work.

“In the past I hadn’t changed my diet much, but this time I had no problems changing it up and eating better,” she said.

‘I just feel pretty good now. There is much more energy.

“When I got my first transplant, they told me I might have an extra 15 years, and of course I exceeded that.

‘Technologies, medicines and research ensure that people can live longer. It’s absolutely amazing and very interesting what they can do now. They’re getting better and better.’

But the thought of the people who donated their organs to save her life is never far from her mind.

1709274460 969 Wyoming woman reveals how she underwent miraculous third heart transplant

“I had a great job and I had great friends and great family, and so I wasn’t ready to die.”

'The most important thing I have learned is how much God has watched over me'

‘The most important thing I have learned is how much God has watched over me’

“It’s so great when people put that on their card or let their family know about it,” she said. ‘That way they can save so many lives.’

And she has no regrets about how her life turned out.

“I think God is using me to send a message,” she said.

“I want to be an inspiration to others, to give them hope, to make them believe that they should never give up under any circumstances – and above all, trust in the Lord. I believe that is my goal.”