COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – A 24-year-old woman with heart failure is asking for help checking some simple things off her “bucket list.”
Jennifer Ortiz grew up happy and healthy in Eagle. She played basketball, loves to craft and wants to be a nurse.
“She brightens up the room with her smile and it’s hard not to smile when she’s smiling at you,” her father Danny Ortiz told FOX31.
Jennifer’s signature smile is more difficult to come by these days, following a grim diagnosis from doctors. She is in heart failure.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to have to think about burying your own child,” Danny said.
When Jennifer was 11 years old, her mother brought her to the emergency room after suffering from a cough for three weeks.
“They thought maybe I had pneumonia, so they did a chest X-ray and then they found out that my heart was enlarged,” Jennifer said.
A few weeks later, the then-12-year-old received a heart transplant. After several years of issues with the new heart, she was recommended and approved for a second heart transplant.
Jennifer has had her latest heart since 2017, and it will likely be her last. It is the heart that is failing, and she has been denied for a third heart transplant.
“When we got the news that UCLA denied it, it was heartbreaking,” Danny said. “It just made it a little more real when they talked about palliative care. We didn’t know what palliative care was until we googled it.”
Palliative care is an end-of-life treatment plan that prioritizes quality of life.
Jennifer’s heart currently has no electric activity and is not beating on its own.
Jennifer is being kept alive by two bags she must carry at all times, called BiVADs. The bags connect to devices implanted in each side of her heart that pumps the blood for her.
“They’re not designed to be a total artificial heart,” Danny said.
He says his daughter is the only person in the world using the devices with no heartbeat after two heart transplants.
“There’s no documentation. There’s no one else. So we don’t know how long it’s going to last because it hasn’t happened yet,” Danny said.
“We really don’t know what the future holds,” Jennifer said. “We don’t know how much time is left.”
Jennifer is committed to spending that time living her life. She created a bucket list with things like traveling to Europe, seeing a Dallas Cowboys game and meeting the Jonas Brothers.
She is asking for help funding her final wishes with a GoFundMe account.
“We’ve got to condense a lifetime into as much time as we have,” Danny said. “It’s a shame that it takes something like this happening to say, ‘Hey, let’s get up and start living’.”