NY volunteer firefighter-EMT receives new heart for Christmas

Barbara Fudge said she was speechless when an available heart was ready for her

By EMS1 Staff

ELMIRA, N.Y. — For years, veteran firefighter-EMT Barbara Fudge has worked to save the lives of others. This December, she found herself being saved by another. 

Fudge, 68, was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes an irregular heart rhythm, in 2015, reported USA Today. Despite her diagnosis, her symptoms of dizziness and shortness of breath persisted. She was diagnosed a few months ago with cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the heart to enlarge and weaken, disabling the heart from pumping blood.

Barbara Fudge. (Photo/University of Rochester Medical Center)
Barbara Fudge. (Photo/University of Rochester Medical Center)

The 19-year veteran underwent the four-hour transplant surgery Dec. 11 and is on the road to recovery. She waited two months for an available heart. 

“When I was waiting, it occurred to me that as a first responder, I was helping save others, and now I’m waiting for somebody to help save me,” Fudge said.

The number of adult organ donors in New York is 22 percent — nearly half of the nation’s total. 

“When they told me they had a good heart for me, I was speechless," Fudge said. "What can you say when someone gives you a Christmas gift like that?”

Fudge is currently on medical leave from the Erin Volunteer Fire Department, but intends to return to serving as a firefighter-EMT. She is also a registered organ donor. 

"How can you accept a gift and not be willing to give one back?" Fudge said. 

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