594. Post-Transplant, She Has a Heart for Service
While trying to recuperate from a heart transplant, Ava became acutely aware of the need for information and support for heart transplant patients and families. Knowing nothing about fundraising or foundations, she decided, “Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it your own way.”
Ava Kaufman is a 67-year-old woman with a transplanted heart from a 17-year-old boy. Just a few years ago, she was living the great life in Los Angeles. She was not only a successful business woman, but she was in excellent health, having been a professional dancer for Gloria Gaynor. But a rare auto-immune disease would change her life’s journey. After her own transplant, she founded Ava’s Heart Foundation, helping hundreds of families through the transplant process with resources and case management.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“I danced from the time I was three and that’s what I wanted to do. Back then, it was not something Jewish families encouraged their children to do. We were a typical, upwardly-moving Jewish family. I was supposed to go to college, become a teacher, marry a doctor, that kind of thing, but I never fit into that. I tried to, because I wanted to please my parents. I danced for 32 years. I still do!”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“Just prior to my transplant, I was probably one of the sickest people they’ve ever transplanted. I had a rare autoimmune disease that went misdiagnosed for three months. It came on so quickly! It devastated my muscles, including my heart. I went from weighing 105 pounds to 200, then down to 80 in four months. After my transplant, what changed most is that I have so much faith and belief in what I am doing. And I have tremendous energy. I cannot tell you that the last eight years have been easy, because they have not, but you learn so much more about yourself in the struggle to get where you want to be.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
As Ava was recuperating from her transplant, actively helping others dealing with transplantation, she drew on her lifelong strength. “I can be put in any situation and I find my way. It is one of my gifts. It starts with knowing who you are. Early in life, I knew who I was but didn’t have the resources to do it. So, I said, okay, I’m just going to do my usual Ava thing and just jump in and see what happens. And it’s happening!”
Steps to Success from Ava Kaufman
1. Make service to others a big part of your life.
2. Know yourself. Start by asking, “Who am I?”
3. Find ways to feed your soul. If your soul is not fed, it is hard to be happy.
4. Be willing to fail. Failure is a part of growth.
5. Free yourself up to take chances and try things. You never know what is going to happen until you try.
Connecting With Ava Kaufman
NOTE: If you want to make a donation to the Ava’s Heart Foundation, you can do so on the website or by texting the word HEART to 41444.
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