Heart transplant recipients walk to celebrate a new life

BY Brittany Pavlichko, Web Production Assistant |

Elizabeth Lawrence is the 1,000th heart transplant recipient at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. She received her new heart in July and is excited to be a part of the Center’s annual 4K Heart and Sole Walk.

“It’s a miracle. I am going to cry. I am still very emotional. I am just blessed,” said Lawrence. “I was lucky to have a heart in eight days after being put on the list. It is amazing being here with family after being gone from them for a few months. To be back and at home; it’s a pleasure.”

The walk around Verona Park not only benefits the program, but is a way to bring patients together with their loved ones.

“This is a very cool event and I am glad to be here because my grandpa got a heart transplant and I am just happy to have him back,” said Maryam.

The event started 15 years ago by the family of MaryAnn Ahearn, one of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s first heart transplant patients.

“When she passed away of a related cause, the family wanted to do something to give back to the program. The Ahearn family stayed involved for many years and the walk became a memory of Ahearn,” said Beth Tepper, vice-president of development.

It is also a chance to raise funds for post-surgery equipment and programs.

“The sponsors give donations to support the program, they bring patients team walkers, they give away merchandise to things that our patients like to pick up and learn about different services that are offered,” said Tepper.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is one of the top ten transplant hospitals in the country and the largest on the East Coast.

“What I like most about Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is that it’s a family, it’s a very cohesive program,” said Mark Zucker, director of the transplant team. “It never dawned on me that we would end up with a thousand transplants. This is a remarkable achievement.”

“This program fits our DNA, and what we do and who we are,” said Doug Zehamer, operating officer at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “I am so happy to get these patients and these families out and see each other. The camaraderie of these events are just extra special.”

Participants donated over $55,000 to the program. Throughout their long journeys, recipients are walking tall and proud to the finish line.

“I am walking, and for the first time, I am really feeling like I am walking with a normal heart. But, if you asked me this three years ago, I don’t think I’d make an eighth of the way, maybe even less than that,” said heart transplant recipient Louis Pavlichko.