Northwell Health’s new heart transplant program sees 6 successful operations so far

MANHASSET, Long Island — From the moment you meet her, you can feel the energy that radiates from Yvonne Fleming.

It’s hard to believe that just four months ago, her heart was in such bad shape that she needed a new one.

"Back in November, I had a massive heart attack where I lost 70 percent uses of my heart. Usually when someone has a heart attack of that proportion, they don’t survive," Fleming said.

But Fleming is a spiritual woman who had a dream the night of her heart attack and believes it just was not her time to go.

"I was in this room. It was a white room and I couldn’t see who was behind the desk," Fleming said of her dream.

And maybe it was a higher power that brought her to Northwell Health and Dr. Brian Lima.

Lima had helped launch the first ever heart-transplant program on Long Island and was looking for his first transplant recipient.

"I guess you can say I couldn’t have scripted a better first patient. She's an amazing, amazing woman. We listed her for a transplant on Friday and, believe it or not, by Sunday had what I would consider a perfect heart,"  Lima said.

For the doctors who were concerned about doing the first heart transplant at Northwell, Fleming was a calming influence.

"There's always that last check point, where our team that goes out to get the heart has visualization. They’ve actually opened the chest, looked at the heart, to be sure that it looks good. And when we heard, we came back into the OR and she had just said, literally like a milli-second before we walked into the room, that God had just told her that the heart was good. And so everyone in the OR sorta got chills,"  Lima said.

Fleming explained what it was like to wake up with a new heart.

"I looked down and I seen my heart moving. And I looked up at him and I started crying. And I was like, 'I’m alive,'" Fleming said.

Four months out, Fleming said she feels wonderful and stronger every day.

She’s hoping to one day meet the family of the person whose heart now beats in her chest, but for now she has a new lease on life.

"I’m gonna enjoy my life because I got a second chance at it. I’m gonna make some things happen," Fleming said