When all of her peers were focused on homecoming, Amanda DeJesus was waiting on a new heart. She was born with a hole in her heart and as she grew older, it became worse. At 12, she was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, meaning her heart was too large for her body, and was given a pacemaker. At 15, on the way to taking to her sister to college, she went into heart failure and was put on the transplant list.
Because she was so young, she received her heart transplant at Texas Children’s Hospital. Her surgeon, Dr. Dean McKenzie, is also Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Congenital Heart Surgery, at Baylor College of Medicine®.
As a heart transplant patient, Amanda was forced to follow a strict diet, but she found it difficult because of the blandness of the food. This drove her to attend culinary school, where she learned ways to create heart healthy foods that also taste good. Now 26 and a patient at Texas Heart® Institute at CHI St. Luke’s Health–Baylor St. Luke’s, Amanda has dedicated her life—and her career as a chef—to helping others keep their hearts healthy.
After culinary school, she became the lead cook at CHI St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital. She has since developed a low-sodium diet for pre- and post-heart transplant patients and has written a heart healthy cookbook called Chef with a Heart. She also mentors pre- and post-transplant patients on how to modify their diets. Additionally, Amanda has recently participated in the Transplant Games of America and won silver and bronze medals in shot put and discus.