by AMY LEHRER | photo by Lauren Nygard Photography

Second Chance Recipient

A year ago walking fifteen feet caused Melissa Cappuccilli to gasp for air. Because medical management for her genetic congestive heart failure no longer worked, Melissa was placed on the transplant list. Thirty-one days later, a heart arrived. Her family witnessed a miracle, but her donor’s family suffered. Melissa shared, “I pray for my donor and my donor’s family every day and always live my life to its fullest to honor my donor and my donor’s wonderful gift of life.”

Soon after her transplant, Melissa’s son needed community service hours. She recommended he volunteer with Donate Life at the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon and Half Marathon. Liking the idea, she volunteered too. She revealed, “There was so much life there, and I felt grateful and blessed to be back in the world.”

faces02Melissa began training with the Lucky 13 program in July through Tri-City Medical Center. Her team includes thirteen North County residents who have overcome health challenges and have never participated in a race before. Melissa revealed, “Through this race, I want to honor my donor. I want to show the world that saving a life through organ donation is the best possible way to be a hero.” Training with medically trained personal trainers and coaches helps Melissa learn to work with a denervated heart. A normal heart is connected to the brain via the nervous system, which allows muscles to trigger a message to the brain that the heart needs to pump faster. In Melissa’s case due to surgery, her heart doesn’t respond. Instead, her brain has to activate her hormone system to trigger her heart to beat faster. Consequently, she must only raise her heart rate thirty to forty beats above baseline.

Melissa’s husband, children, and grandchildren have supported her every step of the way, but they also are sometimes cautious, overwhelmed, or scared for her because they almost lost her.
Melissa hopes her experience inspires people to make healthy changes in their lives, even small daily ones like choosing to drink water instead of soda. Incremental changes could become healthy habits. Realtors say it’s about “location, location, location.” Melissa says life is about “attitude, attitude, attitude.” She hopes people take her advice to heart by improving their lives and by registering to become organ donors. Melissa’s favorite quote post-transplant is “The greatest hero I never knew is the organ donor who saved my life.”


Name: Melissa Ann Cappuccilli
Community: Carlsbad since 2005
Hobbies: Training for the Carlsbad Half Marathon with the Tri-City Medical Center Lucky 13 team, cooking, sewing, bike riding, spending time at the beach, and just enjoying every day I’ve been given
Favorite Local Spots: First and foremost, any and all of the beaches and lagoons. I also love Hosp Grove for walking, Carlsbad Danish Bakery, Fish House Vera Cruz, Beach City Smoothies, Carlsbad Salon District, and Pearl Nails and Spa.