Ava Kaufman, a former professional dancer, seemed to have the perfect life. She married a football hero, adopted her daughter Jade, and built a series of successful moving companies in Beverly Hills. Originally from New York, Ava dreamed of moving to Los Angeles to become a star. She became a professional back-up dancer and danced around the world with many music artists, including Gloria Gaynor.
In September of 2008, Ava’s healthy and happy life came to an end. Her body started to change. Her petite dance frame (110 lbs) became bloated and she developed a rash, itching of the hands and discoloration of the nails. During the following months, Ava became progressively worse. She experienced extreme muscle weakness that was so severe, she required a walker and her body bloated to almost 200 lbs. She was dying from a rare disease called Dermatomyositis. Her heart muscle showed such a level of degeneration and dysfunction, she had to be placed on the heart transplant list. She had developed rapidly progressive heart failure.
For 10 days, Ava was kept alive with machines and the genius of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The doctors did not think Ava would survive, but because of her inner former great health, they had hope. The result was a miracle, both of medical science and human spirit. Within 10 days, a heart was found. On February 21st (Ava’s Birthday) she received a heart transplant. Ava was in an induced coma for seven weeks and was eventually discharged in April 2009.
We will never know what caused the disease, but what we do know is that Ava is ‘a true miracle.’ Her heart team were astounded by how incredible her recovery was.
A mere six months after being in an induced coma and a destroyed heart for ten days, Ava was back to rebuilding her life. She knew she had to for her daughter, Jade. In an amazing sequence of events that can only be explained as a ‘series of miracles," she restored her health and energy.
It was Ava’s love for her daughter that gave her the strength to survive. Ava adopted Jade when she was 12 hours old. At the time, Ava was 47 and recovering from Breast Cancer. Ava believes the Universe brought them together. When she first became ill, Jade & Ava would just laugh at how Ava couldn’t stop scratching. Then, when Ava’s illness progressed, Jade told her to go and see a doctor. She was 11 at the time. Ava and Jade had a great, open relationship.
When Ava was deep into the stages of her illness, she watched Jade running around the house one day, and wondered, what if something happens to me? Who would be able to love her like I do? When Ava was diagnosed, she knew she was seriously ill. She kept telling herself that she had her path and Jade had hers and what ever was meant to be would be. When Ava went to the hospital, she remembers feeling like she was going to die, and all she could think about was Jade. She knew she had to pull through for her daughter. She had to live for Jade.
Now, Ava is working intensely as a business woman, mother and as an advocate for state-of-the-art transplant surgery. Ava volunteers at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center, visiting and talking to patients who are awaiting a new heart. She is a true inspiration to them and encourages them not to give up hope. Her goal is to have a foundation that supports recipients post surgery, so they can receive financial aid for the medication they need. Ava is also a strong advocate for organ donation and is an Ambassador of Donate Life.
Ava still has a passion for dance ("it’s my soul," she says) and takes ballroom lessons every week. She also spars with her boxing coach and is frequently at the gym. Ava refuses to let her life prescription of Prograf (anti-rejection drug) slow her down. Ava is a transplant success and she treasures every moment that her new heart beats.