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Indiana woman gets married, has heart transplant on same day

Kimberly Woods tied the knot, then headed to Cleveland Clinic for her surgery.

CLEVELAND — At just 21 years old, Kimberly Woods of Goshen, Indiana, is a pro at "Plan B."

As a young girl, she wanted to compete, but had to pivot when doctors said "No."

"[They said] not to do any sports, anything to get your heart rate up," Kimberly told us. "I just got into other hobbies that I could find."

A "Plan B" caused by Kimberly's heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, an ailment which causes the heart muscle to thicken. She shares the disease with her mother and brother, and over the next several years, it worsened.

"I still noticed arrhythmia just getting worse and just being tired a little bit more often," she said. "Then I turned 20 and I noticed something wasn't right."

The situation was actually far more serious. In fact, it was life or death.

"She had two hits to her heart in one way," Dr. Emanuel Finet, Kimberly's cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, explained. "It was risk of sudden cardiac death from arrhythmia, and the other one is the risk of dying from the cardiomyopathy itself."

First, Kimberly needed a defibrillator, and eventually she'd need a new heart. A transplant, just like her mother had just two years ago at the Clinic.

"The world definitely just came crashing around us," Kimberly said.

"It was pretty rough," her husband Anthony added. "I mean, the first month afterwards, and we were just like, 'Where does life go from now?'"

She was on borrowed time, just as life was beginning with her greatest love. So, she gave him an out.

"'Heads up,'" she told him. "'It's gonna get rough.' And he was like, 'I'm all for it.'"

They decided to make their commitment official, believing time was on their side.

"That's when we were like, 'Let's get married,'" Kimberly remembered.

"We were also able to say it's okay, it's two, three years from now," Anthony said. "We were able to not really fully put the pressure in the moment."

Credit: Cleveland Clinic

But it wouldn't be years; it was six months after doctors implanted Kimberly's defibrillator. Then, right in the middle of dreaming up their perfect wedding, this happened:

"We got the phone call that there was a perfect heart," Kimberly remembered.

Time for another "Plan B." On Sept. 28, 2021, Kimberly and Anthony summoned their closest family and friends to watch them say "I do." Their commitment was put to the ultimate test the very same day.

The two got married, drove fours hours to Cleveland, checked Kimberly into the hospital, then she had a heart transplant. When she first arrived at Cleveland Clinic for lifesaving surgery, reality set it as Kimberly was wheeled back in to O.R.

"That's when I completely freaked out," Kimberly recalled.

"It was just shock, pretty much," Anthony said. "There was just no words for it in that moment."

Time stood still as Anthony waited for his new bride to emerge with a new heart, and a new start. When he finally got to see her, he never wanted to leave her side.

"So the thing that was going through my mind is, 'I've got to be drug out of here,'" Anthony said. "'There's no way I'm just gonna walk out.'"

Kimberly will be just fine. She's already feeling like she can do more physically post-surgery.

"If she takes care of it, and we take care of her, we hope for her to have a normal lifespan and a normal quality of life," Finet said.

It's also a life Kimberly and Anthony know is unique, but they're the definition of "In sickness and in health."

"He was there every day," Kimberly told us of Anthony and his strength. "He's literally the biggest cheerleader in my life."

Next for the couple? Kimberly and Anthony tell us they'd like to travel around, then settle in for some kids.


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