These are a few words that come to mind when describing Jackie Arias.
Just before her sophomore year at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, Arias was diagnosed with Takayasu arteritis, an autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the blood vessels that can result in heart damage. Soon after, she experienced kidney failure and, requiring dialysis several times a week, began home instruction.
At the start of her senior year, Arias underwent a kidney transplant — and was back in school two months later.
The terrifying question seemingly stopped time as nurses and doctors tried to save 15-year-old Zachary Losee, whose heart had suddenly failed after coming down with flu-like symptoms.
It turned out to be just the beginning of a four-month medical odyssey from that harrowing moment at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester to Losee’s heart-transplant recovery at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.
Zach also described plans to become a cardiologist and get involved in organ donor advocacy, having been inspired by Lauren Shields, a Rockland County transplant recipient turned pre-med student.
“All her stories just impacted me…just like me she had viral myocarditis and had to relearn everything,” Zach said.