Alexia’s Heartbeat of Resilience

Alexia Pearson was a graduate student enjoying life at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. With a knack for making friends and a love for exploring new places, the vivacious young woman had recently received her bachelor’s degree and had begun a graduate program in social work.

“I have a lot of friends,” she shares. “In our dorm, the whole floor became friends with each other. We would go to movies, concerts, and take trips.”

One morning in February of 2023, as Alexia was getting ready for her day, she suddenly got dizzy and experienced a ringing in her ears. “I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was dying,” she recalls.

After two trips to the emergency room, the doctors discovered that the 23-year-old had experienced a heart attack.

Says Alexia’s mom, Claudia, “Heart attacks don’t run in our family. We don’t have a family history, so we’ve not really discovered a genetic reason for her heart attack, especially for someone as young as she is.”

Alexia celebrates her 24th birthday while waiting for a heart transplant at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Determined to fight for her life, Alexia underwent a series of medical procedures, including a heart catheterization and the insertion of a stent. However, it soon became clear that her heart needed more than just temporary fixes. “I wore a cardiac life vest to help determine whether my heart would get stronger on its own,” Alexia explained. When it didn’t, doctors at IU Health qualified her for an internal cardiac defibrillator.

They also determined Alexia would need a heart transplant.

Too sick to leave the hospital, Alexia spent months at IU Health Methodist Hospital waiting for a heart. In February 2024, almost one year after her heart attack, the miracle finally happened. Alexia received the precious gift of a new heart just days after her 24th birthday. Discharged only four weeks after her transplant, Alexia and her mom came to Fair Haven.

Having a place to stay near the hospital was extremely important for Alexia. As a heart transplant patient, Alexia was required to attend COLTT, an intensive daily rehabilitation program specifically designed for post-transplant patients. The program usually lasts at ~3-5 weeks or more. It’s an important part of helping patients continue to regain their strength and live a full, healthy life after transplantation.

Heart transplant patient Alexia and her mom Claudia are thankful for their home-away-from-home at Fair Haven.

Says Alexia about Fair Haven, “There’s just no way I could have done all of this, especially if I had to drive from my apartment” over 1.5 hours away.

Her mother Claudia took family leave from her job in Miami, Florida, to stay with her daughter in Indiana. Claudia is incredibly grateful for the home-away-from-home that she and Alexia have had at Fair Haven. She shares, “The lodging, the prayers, the food, everyone’s been like family. It’s been like a surreal experience, you know, everyone’s been joyful.”

Although the duo expresses their faith differently, they both see God at work in this unwelcome health journey. The daughter finds opportunities to make new friends, especially at COLTT where she encourages others. Her mom, realizing what easily could have happened to her daughter, expresses her gratitude: “I thank God she’s still here.”

After a year of sticking close to IU Health, Alexia hopes to finish her degree and travel with friends.

“I’ve been very interested in Asian culture, so I want to go to Korea and Japan. I’ve never been out of the country, so getting to do that would be a big thing,” she shares.

“In spite of all she’s been through,” summarizes Alexia’s mom, “she’s still happy. I’m grateful for that.”