A teenage girl who lived three years with the transplanted heart of the boy who loved her died while taking a nap at her home, ending a touching story that captured worldwide attention.
Officials at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco said Donna Ashlock died Tuesday after the heart she had received from Felipe Garza Jan. 4, 1986, apparently succumbed to the damage caused by several recent attempts by her body to reject it.Ashlock, who would have been 18 on April 1, apparently died from arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, at her home in the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community of Patterson, about 75 miles south of San Francisco.
"Her death comes as a severe shcok," said Dr. Andrew Fryer, Donna's pediatric cardiologist. "She was seen by us last week, and we were pretty happy with her condition.
"She was very cheerful, quite active, hopeful and quite positive," he said. "There was no indication of a life-threatening situation."
Donna and her family had learned in 1985 that she had terminal degenerative heart disease and that she eventually would need a transplant. She had told Felipe about her condition on one of their dates.
The story received worldwide attention when it was revealed that the 15-year-old youth had told his mother he had had a premonition of death and that he wanted Donna to have his heart.
A few days after his premonition, Felipe died from a broken blood vessel in his brain.
Remembering her son's wish, his mother told doctors to keep his heart beating mechanically until he could be flown to San Francisco and his heart placed in Donna's chest.
Everything seemed to go smoothly, and after a normal period of recovery Donna went home, returned to high school and resumed a life only slightly more restricted than her classmates. She even got a part-time job in a fast-food restaurant.
But last July she began feeling tired, and her doctors discovered that her transplanted heart had been permanently damaged by her body's repeated attempts to reject it.