Dashia lives in Harlem and is happy to talk about her independence, journey and the mysteries of what is to come. Dashia is deeply rooted in education, altruism, and the love of travel and exploration. So full of confidence, optimism and energy, in talking to Dashia, one can easily forget that she is receiving 24 hour intravenous treatments in order to survive. One can also forget that Dashia is currently unable to travel to the exotic places she’s listed on her travel bucket list. One can forget that Dashia, so full of life, is waiting for a heart to continue living.
The reason for forgetting is that Dashia has lived almost her entire life as if heart failure was only a secondary discussion in relation to who she is as a person. It has never defined her, and she certainly works to make sure it doesn’t slow her down to the best of her ability. It is this kind of character that has allowed Dashia to live an accomplished and mostly normal life looking in from the outside: a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Monroe College, an accounting career with prestigious companies that include Merrill Lynch and Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs, and time practicing real estate in NYC.
Heart failure has never stopped Dashia from living her life to the fullest. And her words demonstrate the way she’s always lived, “I never saw myself as being sick. I stayed motivated and I’m proud to have earned my degree in a subject I am good at and enjoy.”
Her heart condition never improved, however, and she eventually chose to begin working out of her home to ensure an income while keeping up with all of her cardiology appointments. In February of 2014, Dashia was listed for a heart transplant at New York-Presbyterian, which now makes it two years since she was placed on the transplant waiting list.
“Sometimes I lose hope [for a transplant], because the amount of donors giving in New York State is so low. A lot of people don’t have the facts about becoming an organ donor, and if they knew more, they would probably be a lot more willing to sign up as a donor.”
Despite her bouts with uncertainty, more often than not Dashia remains optimistic. She knows it is just a matter of time until her transplant happens, but to understand her optimism and resolve in her fight, you have to understand her story.
Dashia was born in the Bronx. Not only was she a healthy baby, but Dashia thrived during the first year of her life, meeting every developmental milestone with poise and ease.
Yet when Dashia turned 18 months old, her parents received devastating news about her health. Dashia was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. She then began receiving chemotherapy treatments to help her fight the illness, and Dashia’s family poured their love and support into Dashia’s fight. A fighter from the very beginning, Dashia’s family knew their infant daughter would eventually get well again.
Two years after she received her treatment, Dashia overcame her cancer. That year, her family not only celebrated Dashia’s fourth birthday, they also celebrated their daughter’s new lease on life, and began to see her health blossom. Dashia started public school, spent an enormous amount of time playing with other kids around the neighborhood, and began dreaming of what her future would eventually look like as a grownup.
To Dashia and her family, chemotherapy was quickly becoming a fading memory as time went on and her good health returned. In fact, the memory often served as a reminder of Dashia’s incredible strength more than anything else. The same strength that would again come to define her character as she grew older and entered another phase of health-related challenges.
Read the next chapter to learn more about the effects of Dashia’s chemotherapy and her persistent courage.
When Dashia turned 10, she began to struggle with keeping up with the other kids on the playground. She did not pay it much attention, and in turn, neither did her family. It wasn’t until a year later, after extended bouts of fatigue that Dashia could no longer write off as part of adolescence, that the family grew concerned. Was the cancer returning? Was it simply a childhood illness? Though it wasn’t cancer, unfortunately for Dashia and her family, it was very serious.
The life-saving chemotherapy Dashia received eight years before resulted in a condition that was causing her heart to fail. While she couldn’t play sports at the same level she used to, or run around with the other kids for quite as long, she didn’t make time for explanations and kept the details to herself. For Dashia, it was really a matter of taking her medication faithfully and continuing to carry on.
In fact, no activity was too difficult for Dashia, including her academics, which she excelled at in spite of everything. Dashia confronted each new challenge in her life with unparalleled bravery. College, career, cancer, there was nothing that Dashia could not overcome with a positive attitude and her unique brand of resilience, except heart failure.
Now Dashia hopes others in New York will be strong alongside her, “I’ve been a light to others and they’ve been a light to me as well. But there’s no light greater than giving the gift of life to someone who could really make an impact in their family and community. So I would encourage everyone to learn more about the facts behind organ donation.”
Dashia continues to work towards her goals and dreams. A trip to Dubai is how she plans to celebrate receiving her new heart, but the timing is hard to predict. When compared to the rest of the country, New York State has the lowest percentage of residents registered as organ donors. Dashia’s voice cracks a little when she considers the thought of not seeing the day where she receives a new heart from a generous donor. Yet the moment only lasts for a second before Dashia reminds all of us that for her, it isn’t a matter of if she will get her heart, but when. It is through this optimism and positivity that shines so brightly you know this is one woman who will be back to tell us her story of not only receiving her heart transplant, but also going on to help others facing similar battles as well.
Share your story. Inspire others as an organ recipient or find out how to sign up as an organ donor.
Do you know that nearly 10,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant in New York?
New York ranks 50th out of 50 states with regard to the percentage of residents registered as organ donors.
Studies show that 9 out of 10 New Yorkers support organ donation, but only 27% of New Yorkers are registered.
1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives and improve up to 50 lives through tissue donation.