by LIZ ONUFER | photo by Mark Hopkins Photography

Running Strong


Melissa Cappuccilli’s practice to wake up with a grateful heart is both literal and figurative. In November 2013, Melissa received a heart transplant and has learned the deeper meaning of waking up each day humbled and grateful.

Melissa’s journey began 14 years before her transplant when she was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD) and received a surgical implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD). As a full-time Navy nurse, her medical condition prevented her from being deployable, and she had to accept a medical retirement. The outlook was grim for Melissa. “Single mom, four kids, no career, and a medical health care team that could not tell me anything about what my future life would hold,” she explained.

“It doesn’t matter what your battle is, it’s about how you let the battle define you.”

The next 14 years were a series of medical treatments, the last two years in congestive heart failure. “Each one of us has some battle we need to fight,” Melissa acknowledged. “As life moves on, we all have to find that new normal.” Through her own battle, Melissa raised her four children, married, and continued to stay as active as possible. She credits her husband, Matt, an active outdoorsman, for much of her health improvements. “Matt was by my side and kept me motivated in living life even when I could only walk 15 feet and had to stop and catch my breath,” she shared.

Today, Melissa’s grateful heart is the physical heart of her organ donor. “My hero, my heart donor, was a 19-year-old nursing student. Nicole had made the choice to be an organ donor when she first received her driver’s license,” she shared. “I find peace in knowing I have another day to honor my organ donor and live the life she gave me through organ donation.” Melissa’s life now includes working full-time as a registered nurse, volunteering for a number of organizations, such as WomenHeart and Donate Life, and consistently running half marathons, including the Carlsbad Half Marathon.

“By sharing my story, I hope people can see they are not alone,” Melissa said. “It doesn’t matter what your battle is, it’s about how you let the battle define you. Through my experience, there are times when I let the disease define who I was and there are times when I decided how I would live my life within my new normal. Accepting my new normal always led me to a happier outcome by choosing to live life and be grateful for all that I had and not focus on my losses.”


Name: Melissa Ann Cappuccilli
Profession: Registered Nurse
Community: Carlsbad Village
Hobbies & Interests: Walking at the beach, jogging, skiing, paddle boarding, hiking, traveling, reading, strength training, sewing (I make my grandkids’ Halloween costumes every year!)
Favorite Places to Visit in Carlsbad: The beach, Carlsbad has the best beaches!