Young Superior artificial heart recipient diesMara Krysiak, the 21-year-old woman from Superior born with a genetic heart condition whose story inspired many throughout the Northland, died at 7 a.m. Monday, according to family friends.
By: Jason B. Johnson, Duluth News Tribune
Mara Krysiak, the 21-year-old woman from Superior born with a genetic heart condition whose story inspired many throughout the Northland, died at 7 a.m. Monday, according to family friends.
She became the second person to receive an artificial heart implant at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee on Nov. 11. She developed a blood infection more than a week ago that led to complications and excessive fluid buildup in her lungs, said family friend Stephanie Evans.
Krysiak battled to the end, with a spirit summed up by her personal mantra “I got this,” Evans said. Her supporters held a fundraising event for her on Saturday at the Kom-on-Inn in West Duluth.
“The girl never doubted for a second that she was gonna beat this thing. And that she was going to live a normal life,” Evans said.
Krysiak suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition she shared with her mother, Heather Krysiak. It’s a genetic mutation in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Both were diagnosed as children.
Krysiak’s grandmother, Mary Kaye Talaska, died from the same condition at age 25.
Over time, as Krysiak’s condition grew more serious, she found it more difficult to participate in athletic activities like softball or volleyball, or bowling. She had a heart transplant at Children’s on Nov. 24, 2012. Less than a year later, on Aug. 1, Heather Krysiak also received a heart transplant.
But almost a full year after her transplant, Mara’s new heart failed. That’s when her doctors turned to the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart implant. According to the company’s website, it’s intended to sustain life until a suitable donor heart is available. One recipient survived for nearly four years and then received a successful transplant, according to the company’s website.
Krysiak’s progress after the implant took a turn for the worse after the blood infection arose, said Evans and family friend Pam Houle.
“Her last week she’s been on life support and constant dialysis so they could let her rest and start to heal from that infection, and there was nothing more that they could do for her,” Evans said.
Krysiak had been at Children’s since Oct. 28. During her daughter’s treatment, Heather Krysiak put off much of her own cardiac rehab work to be at Mara’s side, even though she is still recuperating from her own transplant.
More than 700 people had subscribed to Watch Team Mara on Facebook, and Krysiak’s family hopes people will continue to aid those in need by supporting groups such as Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national organizations and local coalitions across the U.S. dedicated to educating the public about organ, eye and tissue donation. The group’s website is donatelife.org and, locally, donatelifemn.org.
Krysiak’s immediate family was still in Milwaukee on Monday. While funeral plans were not immediately announced, a service probably will be held at the family’s church, St. Francis Xavier in Superior, Evans said.