Jackson mother of 8 celebrates birthday with 'a brand-new heart'

A woman from Jackson had her wish granted when she received the gift of life on her 48th birthday – just in time for the holidays.

"I sure did. I got a brand-new heart," said Rachel Lanham, who suffers from an inherited heart failure condition.

The wife and mother of eight needed a heart transplant to stay alive.

"(I've been) struggling with heart failure for a few years now, and it just started getting worse," Lanham said. 

On Nov. 6, she went to University of Michigan Health for an exam, but medical professionals informed her that they needed to keep her until a heart became available.

"November 20th, on my birthday, I got my new heart," Lanham said.

The heart came from a donor who had recently passed away. The transplant used a process called donation after circulatory death (DCD).

"Traditionally, hearts have been (retrieved) from donors after they’ve been declared brain-dead, which means that the hearts were still beating. But with donation after circulatory death this now allows us to take hearts that are no longer beating," said Dr. Monica Colvin.

Colvin is the medical director of the Heart Transplant Program at Michigan Medicine.

"With this new technology, the heart-in-a-box, we’re able to preserve that organ for a longer period of time," Colvin said. "The ability to transplant hearts after circulatory death has the potential to increase transplants by up to 30%."

In March, U-M Health transplanted its first DCD heart, and the hospital has since reached a record number of heart transplants this year.

Since her procedure, Lunham has been released from the hospital and is back home to celebrate Christmas with her family. 

FOX 2 caught up with Lunham on Friday as she visited the hospital for a follow-up.

"I am just so grateful to my donors family that they chose to give that gift of life," she said.

Rachel hopes through her story that people see how crucial it is to become an organ and tissue donor
Sot 8 a gift like that allows somebody like me – who has six children still at home, two children out of the home… one's married and the other one's going to college – to be a part of their lives."