BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's always that place where you feel like yourself the most.
For 34-year-old Kristen Jarosz, it's anywhere she can be a beach bum.
"I love the beach, I love the water, so when we first talked about the LVAD and they said 'no swimming,' I was like, 'Eh, I don't know,' " Jarosz said.
Kristen got her LVAD in March.
It's a mechanical pump in her chest, which helps her heart pump blood.
"With an LVAD, I have to carry around batteries so that part has definitely been an adjustment for me," Jarosz said.
Unfortunately, it's one of several adjustments Kirsten has made because of a diagnosis she got at 27.
"Started feeling pain and my chest. I couldn't breathe. I was having chest pain, and being so young, I just thought it was nothing," Jarosz said.
Nothing turned into congestive heart failure.
Kirsten managed it with medication for years, until that started to fail her too.
"She would get very winded and pale and dizzy and pale. It was like watching her decline," friend and former co-worker Cindy McConnell said.
Kristen had to make yet another adjustment and leave her position as a nurses' aid and immediate treatment assistant in Mercy Hospital's emergency room.
"I've always wanted to help people. That was always what I wanted to do so out of high school, I jumped right in. I took care of patients, but they definitely took care of me too. I would do it again in a heartbeat," Jarosz said.
Now Kristen's left in limbo as she awaits a heart transplant.
Her friend has started a GoFundMe to help Kristen pay for it, when that day finally arrives.
It's a small gesture for someone who does some pretty big things for others.
"She signs up for the walk fundraisers, and she's doing walks to raise money for other people while she's just so sick herself. It's just crazy to think of that. She's just always looking out for other people," McConnell said.
Giving back is not only the right thing to do, but it's finally giving Kristen something she needs.
"I am going through it right now so if I can help anyone else that's been through this or is going through this, I would love to do that," Jarosz said. "I guess it keeps me being me."
Not even a weak heart can completely take that away.
If you'd like to donate to the GoFundMe, click here.
Kristen is also making bracelets and all the proceeds are going toward her heart transplant. If you would like to buy one, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.