ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Denise Champagne isn’t a huge fan of exercise.

“No I’m not a runner,” she laughed. “Partially because when I was a kid, I couldn’t.” 

What You Need To Know

  • There were more than 46,000 heart transplants in 2023, representing an increase of 8.7% compared to 2022

  • Strong Memorial Hospital is among the busiest 37 heart transplant centers in the country

  • Strong saw a record of 40 people receiving transplants in 2023, an 82% increase over their previous record of 22 transplants in 2022

Now she does it because she can and because she needs to. 

“I’m doing it to continue my recovery as well as I plan to keep doing that to respect and protect the great gift I’ve been given,” she said. 

The gift was that of a new heart. She is a heart transplant recipient who received her transplant surgery through University of Rochester Medical Center. 

It has almost been one year since Denise received her new heart at Strong Memorial Hospital.

“It's like this phone call that you’re hoping you’ll get, you’re not sure you will and then when it comes you’re just… I don’t know if it's one of those things you can ever be prepared for,” Denise said. 

It was a phone call that had been a lifetime coming. 

“Starting when I was 8, I had three open heart surgeries before I graduated high school, including an emergency surgery my senior year.”

She was born with a rare heart defect that caused her to have multiple valve replacements which led to heart failure in 2021.

“Her heart surgery took about 12 hours, now someone who’s never had a heart surgery before, it could be as quick as 6 hours,” said Dr. Katherine Wood, cardiac and heart transplant surgeon at URMC.

It's a procedure that isn't new for Strong, which is among the busiest 37 heart transplant centers in the country. Seeing a record of 40 people receiving transplants in 2023, compared to 22 transplants in 2022.

Nearly a year since Denise’s surgery, it’s now about gaining back her strength. 

“You can start to plan things and look to the future and before I wasn’t sure if there was one,” she said. 

Even if that means getting in regular workouts.

“There’s no marathon in the future, no interest, but maybe I would be capable, I don’t know,” she laughed.