A Heartfelt Journey: Saraya’s Battle with Cardiomyopathy

Saraya - Heart Patient

Saraya’s life took an unexpected turn when what seemed like a common stomach virus turned out to be a life-threatening condition that no one saw coming.

Saraya’s ordeal began with what her family thought was a routine illness. Pale and fatigued, the 10-year-old struggled to walk and needed more time to rest throughout the day. Her friends and family noticed her symptoms, but the reason for Saraya’s declining health was a mystery until the night when everything changed.

“One night when everyone was sleeping, I was still up and I yelled for my mom,” Saraya recalls. “I said, ‘let’s go to the hospital,’ because I wasn’t feeling well at all. I felt really strange.” Little did she know, this instinct was the start of a long and scary journey.

A Frightening Diagnosis

When they arrived at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Saraya endured a long night of tests which finally uncovered the cause of her strange symptoms – not only did she have an enlarged gallbladder, but her heart was ten times its normal size. This abnormality was exerting pressure on her lungs, making each breath a struggle. The final diagnosis was cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle becomes weakened and cannot pump blood effectively. Ultimately, Saraya would need a heart transplant.

A Confident Team and a New Heart

For Saraya’s family, the news was overwhelming. “It’s a new experience for us,” says her father, James. “It was stressful until the doctors explained it to us, but I feel more confident now in what they’re doing and more educated with all the information they gave us. The team at UPMC Children’s has been phenomenal.”

In 2023, Saraya got her new heart and began her journey to recovery.

Her family is grateful for donors who support our U.S. News & World Report Top Ten Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s. Kids like Saraya receive the specialized care and treatment they need to fight life-threatening conditions thanks to the generosity of our donors. “Thank you to the people that donate because it can help so many kids,” says Saraya. “You’re going to change people’s lives.”

At the Heart

In 2023, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh announced plans to significantly expand its award-winning Heart Institute. Widely regarded as one of the best pediatric cardiology programs in the country with a top-notch team and extraordinary culture of collaboration, UPMC Children’s Heart Institute is uniquely positioned to deliver next-level care to children and adults with heart disease. Learn more about the plans for this new facility.