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LiveOnNY Good-Hearted

Shelby Caban cherishes every moment of her life because she knows how easily she could have lost it.

Shortly after her 10th birthday, she was diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, meaning that the ventricles of her heart were too rigid to expand which made it difficult for her heart to pump blood. While some people who have this disease experience few to no symptoms, Shelby's case was so severe, it put her into end stage heart failure.

Framed pictures of Shelby (left) and her brother (right). Photo via Upworthy.


Even though she was just a child, when the doctors sat her down and explained her diagnosis, she understood how serious it was.

"I felt very sick, so the situation was very real to me even at such a young age," writes Shelby in an email.

She needed a heart transplant, but her condition was so dire, she wasn't allowed to wait for it in the comfort of her own home.

So Shelby's parents moved her into a room at the hospital which became her bedroom for the next 45 days.

In that room, she had nothing to do but wait, which brought up so many different emotions. While she was certainly scared, she never stopped being hopeful that a heart would eventually come to her — though that thought came with even more complicated feelings.

"I always thought about what my life would be like with someone else’s heart inside of me," writes Shelby. "Especially, knowing it would most likely be someone young. It made me sad that someone’s tragedy would ultimately be my blessing."

Finally, in early 2004, the Caban family got the news they'd been hoping for — Shelby had a heart coming to her.

The night she found out, Shelby just started crying uncontrollably. She was overwhelmed with relief, anxiety, and joy, but there were also pangs of grief for the 9-year-old girl whose heart she was going to receive.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

Shelby's transplant operation lasted somewhere between six to eight hours. Afterwards, she had to spend a couple weeks in the hospital, then another five months at home recuperating. She couldn't go outside during that time because the anti-rejection medications she was on suppressed her immune system, making her highly susceptible to infections.

After those months at home, when she was finally allowed to venture out, she initially had to wear a mask as an extra precaution. On top of all this, she was taking 32 pills a day, and was told she'd be on them for life. Needless to say, it was a huge life adjustment.

"You’d think receiving a heart is simple — get the heart, and move on with your life," remarks Shelby. "It’s not."

Shelby will always live a somewhat different life because of her heart transplant, but it's all worth it for her because she's still living it.

Today, she's training to become a Physician's Assistant and is in her last year of a Masters program. Her goal is to one day work in pediatrics and help other children get healthy. Getting to be on the other side of the patient's bed has been an amazing experience for her so far, and she's excited to see what lies ahead.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

However, not a day goes by that she doesn't think about the little girl who gave her a second chance at life.

"I have her picture framed right by my bed in my bedroom," she writes.

Shelby was able to speak to the girl's family about a year after her surgery, and thank them for the incredible gift they helped give her. And two years ago, she actually reconnected with the girl's sister, which has been very meaningful.

"They are incredible people, and being in contact with them makes me feel even closer to the little girl whose heart I now share."

Shelby wishes she could give the girl who saved her life a big hug and say 'thank you' over and over, although she knows that would never be enough to express how grateful she is.

What she can do, however, is tell her story to inspire others to become organ donors so that many more lives can be saved.

Photo via Shelby Caban.

For those who are on the fence about it, she stresses the importance of reading up on organ donation to help dispel any concerns they might have. There are lots of myths surrounding the process, including that you have to be in perfect health to be a donor. Rather than just believing what you've heard, Shelby wants everyone to take it upon themselves to get informed and make an educated decision.

"I had a heart transplant, I had cancer, AND I am also an organ donor," she writes.

On average, 20 people die everyday while waiting for an organ. However, just one organ donor can save up to eight lives like Shelby's. And donors aren't just saving lives of recipients — their donation has a huge impact on entire families as well.

Imagine, just by checking a box, you could give a future back to someone who might not have one otherwise. So what are you waiting for?

Learn more about organ donation at LiveOnNY.org

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

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