ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Inside HCA Florida Northside Hospital, Kathleen Hornbecker gets her blood pumping.

What You Need To Know

  • April is Organ Donation Awareness Month.

  • Donate Life America reports that one organ, eye and tissue donor can save and heal more than 75 lives

  •  Kathleen Hornbecker, 76, received her heart transplant in November 2023

  • On Friday, April 12th at 1 p.m. HCA Largo Hospital is honoring Blue Green Day with a flag raising ceremony

She is doing cardiac rehabilitation. However, six months ago, none of this would have seemed possible. 

“I knew I was dying,” said Hornbecker. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even lay down to sleep. I had to sit up to sleep.”

Her heart was failing. In fact, in the 20 years prior, she had two heart attacks, a stroke and congestive heart failure happen twice. 

Despite it all, November 2023, the then 75-year-old was in good shape otherwise. She was healthier than most 60-year-olds, which is why doctors deemed her a candidate for a heart transplant.

“He looked at all my medical records, put me through oh my gosh, 100 of tests. And the next time I met with him, he said, You are a candidate for a heart transplant. He said, that’s what’s going to keep you alive,” said Hornbecker. 

Dr. Andrew Boyle, the Medical Director of Advanced Heart Failure at HCA Largo Medical Center, was one of people who determined Hornbecker was a good candidate for a heart transplant. 

With a few clicks on his computer, Boyle pulled up a video of Hornbecker’s heart prior to the transplant. 

“So you can see how that heart’s not squeezing in. It’s just kind of rocking,” said Boyle. 

Her heart was in terrible shape. But Hornbecker’s new heart is now pumping strong as ever. 

“Tremendously different,” said Dr. Boyle. “So that’s why she feels as well as she did. And that’s why she’s able to do cardiac rehab and why she’s able to get back to her usual life.”

As a transplant physician, he takes his oath to organ donor families very seriously. 

“We will only give those organs that are a precious gift from that family, to people who will treasure it, the people who will take care of it,” said Boyle. 

He encourages everyone to have conversations now, especially with young people, on whether they would be a donor. 

For Hornbecker, she is thankful every day someone had that conversation when her need came. 

“Now I definitely know how blessed I am and hopefully get to see my grandchildren grow up,” said Hornbecker. 

She says with a smile in her eye; she plans to live to 100 now. 

This Friday, April 12, is Blue Green Day, and at HCA Largo Hospital there will be a flag raising ceremony. It will be in collaboration with Donate Life Month. 

The event is happening at 1 p.m.