Meet Maria Legatt

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At the U, it was not about breaking rules, it was about breaking ground - Maria Legatt

Persistence Gives Her a Second Chance

Born and raised in the small, tight-knit community (population: 800) of St. Stephens, Minnesota, 33-year-old Maria Legatt’s congenital heart condition sent her and her family to one expert after another during Maria’s youth.

As the condition put greater limits on her stamina, Maria became more resolute about finding a solution. She was frustrated with various clinics and specialists telling her “Let’s try this” over and over. A University of Minnesota graduate who became an environmental scientist, Maria needed convincing evidence that the right treatment was out there.

The team approach at the University of Minnesota was part of what caught Maria’s attention during her extensive research. When she first called, she clicked immediately with the nurse, Betsey Merkle, who knew just which doctor would be the best fit. Sure enough, Maria was impressed with the confidence and respectful attitude of her doctor, Marc Pritzker, M.D.

Dr. Pritzker said that the ultimate procedure that would finally deliver the quality of life she was seeking would be a heart transplant. At first she was shocked. “He did not force the issue but allowed me the opportunity to get my head around the decision to transplant,” she said. “He understood my emotional state.” She ultimately decided to go on the transplant list.

At one point during the process, her hometown held a huge fundraiser just for her, but she was in the ICU and on an IV. Instead of refusing her request to go, her team set up a portable IV pump unit and made arrangements for her to attend. “They knew that the positive energy I would get from the fundraiser and my town far outweighed any medical challenges that I might encounter,” she said. “They even let me wear the red dress that had been purchased just for this occasion.”

She has been a part of the post-transplant support group ever since. “People who have faced what I faced can give me advice and support from their experiences,” she says. When her transplant nurse sees her phone number on her caller ID, she greets her like an old friend.

Her team also honored her fascination with the surgery by taking pictures and labeling the hearts ‘old’ and ‘new.’

“At the U, it was not about breaking rules, it was about breaking ground,” Maria says.