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Kari Alejandre

When her daughter, Keely, passed away, Mary Ann Bjorgaard was devastated. Then a chance meetup led her to learn who Keely’s heart saved, and she realized that in a way, Keely was now able to walk and talk — abilities she had never had since being born with cerebral palsy and without the left side of her brain.

Keely’s heart gave Kari Alejandre a second chance at life. Kari went on to accomplish many things that would have been impossible without a new heart, including having children of her own. Kari’s son, Paolo, was one of around 70 people worldwide at the time born to a woman with a transplanted heart.

“There is no word big enough to express what Mary Ann’s family means to me,” Kari said. “I feel forever connected to Keely. She left a good part of her energy in me.”

That energy helped Kari receive another transplanted heart earlier this year — 20 years after she received Keely’s.

“I hope my second donor family knows how many people are grateful for their selfless act,” she said. “I’m so happy to be alive. Life isn’t always roses, but it’s always joyful.”

Kari Alejandre’s Family

In photo: Kari Alejandre (recipient; floral dress), Adolfo Alejandre (Kari’s husband), Bella Alejandre (daughter), Paolo Alejandre (son); Mary Ann Bjorgaard (mother of Kari’s first heart donor)