Samantha Denti was only 28 years old when her doctors told her she was
dying. She had been battling heart disease for several years and now she
desperately needed a heart transplant.
Her troubles began at the age of 23 when she began to feel light headed
and dizzy, and it hurt her to breathe. Her doctor told her that she needed
to rest and calm down. Not satisfied with this response, she received
additional testing at Community Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health
facility, which confirmed her worst fear – advanced heart failure
due to cardiomyopathy, the same heart disease that plagued her father.
Samantha was referred to
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, also an RWJBarnabas Health facility, for a pace maker
and defibrillator, along with medication.
Her condition continued to worsen and she was referred to Mark J. Zucker,
MD, Director, Heart Failure Treatment and Transplantation Program at Newark
Beth Israel, who determined that the left side of Samantha's heart
was markedly abnormal and not pumping effectively.
The plan was to implant a ventricular assist device (VAD) – designed
to partially or completely replace the function of her failing left ventricle.
It was understood that Samantha would eventually need a new heart.
Then the right side of her heart gave out and both heart chambers were
The young Toms River woman began to say her goodbyes to her loved ones.
She sat down and wrote a letter, about the importance of not putting your
dreams on hold. She wrote about her dreams and all the things she wanted
She had always wanted to be a basketball coach.
Two week later, Samantha found herself in a hospital bed at Newark Beth
Israel with only 24 hours to live, then the "miracle" call arrived
– there was a heart for Samantha.
Margarita Camacho, MD, Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplantation and
Assist Devices at Newark Beth Israel boarded a plane herself to retrieve
the heart for transplant surgery. Dr. Camacho personally recovers every
heart she ultimately transplants.
"Newark Beth Israel is my slice of heaven," says Samantha. "I've
never seen such commitment and compassion. The entire staff was phenomenal
– they treated me like family. I wouldn't be here today without
The surgery was a success and afterwards physiologists worked with Samantha
to rebuild her strength and independence.
She was so grateful to be alive that Samantha decided to fulfill every
item on her wish list, though she had no idea how she would ever become
a basketball coach, when she had just learned how to stand and walk again.
Soon after her release from the hospital, another phone call changed her
life forever; her cousin’s high school basketball team offered her
a coaching position.
Samantha had no idea how she would coach basketball when she could barely
walk but in time she regained her strength and the team also encouraged
her to get back on the court.
This June, Samantha was able to participate in the Transplant Games of
America. She participated in the basketball, volleyball and trivia tournaments
and her basketball team won silver.
About the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
The heart failure and transplant program at Newark Beth Israel Medical
Center, is one of the top five programs in the nation, and is the most
comprehensive center in New Jersey. The program is at the forefront of
improving the quality of life for transplant candidates and recipients,
as well as increasing access to transplant. For more information, visit
barnabashealth.org/heartcenters or call