It’s inspiring to hear stories about transplant recipients reflecting themes of hope, resilience, and the human spirit’s ability to overcome challenges. This month we want to introduce you to Karen Rosner and her incredible journey of challenges she has faced. More importantly, her remarkable strength and determination to live a full and joyful life.
Today, Karen is a compassionate Transplant Social Worker with Banner University Phoenix. Her career path has been one of selfless service. Karen began in child welfare and special needs adoption, then began working in hospitals first in insurance before transferring to social work. TCA has the pleasure of working with Karen on a regular basis though several of our programs, assisting her patients with financial support through our Living Assistance Fund, providing mentors with our Mentor Program and you will also find Karen facilitating our Support Groups.
When Karen was born in Massachusetts. She was born the seventh of eight siblings, and the first girl! When Karen was just 9 weeks old her mother was concerned because Karen didn’t cry and just had a feeling something was wrong. Doctors told her mom, consider yourself lucky, you have a good baby. But that just didn’t sit well with her mom. She had an intuition that something was not right with Karen. At Karen’s baptism that intuition proved to be right. Karen turned blue and was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with double pneumonia, and it was discovered her heart was double the size of a normal 9-week infant. She was flown straight to Boston Children’s Hospital where she underwent her first open heart surgery. She and her family lived 2 hours from the hospital, therefore she had to spend the next 9 months in the hospital. This would begin Karen’s new norm of hospital stays over the next several years until the age of 12 years old.
The most memorable surgery for Karen was when she was 12 years old. In 1975, Karen and her mother were at Boston Children’s Hospital for a checkup and routine tests when the cardiologist called them back into a room informing them that Karen would need another open-heart surgery. This would be her fifth one. The doctor discussed the procedure and noted it was called the Mustard Procedure, named after Dr. Mustard in England, who developed the procedure. “I understood this much; the rest I didn’t really absorb”, Karen recalls. Karen also remembers hearing the doctor tell her mother she had less than a 50 percent chance of surviving the surgery, and if she did survive, she would only live for 12 hours. With all of this they scheduled a date for the surgery. The surgery was a success. And those 12 hours, well they turned into days, weeks, years and decades. Karen’s 12 hours aren’t up yet.
Throughout her life, Karen’s health often presented challenges with so many open-heart surgeries. In 2006, she suffered a cardiac event and was told by doctors she should expect to need a heart transplant in the next 2-3 years. However, things escalated quickly, and she was listed in a matter of weeks. After her heart transplant, she struggled with early signs of rejection caused by one of her medications. Her medications were adjusted, and the rejection was reversed.
It is miraculous what Karen has been through, survived and is thriving. Having gone through the risky but necessary life-saving open-heart surgeries that started in the 1960’s illuminates her will to live (back then you weren’t expected to live). Karen’s resilient spirit shines through. She has undergone 6 open heart surgeries, 1 back surgery that required the placement of a rod, 2 strokes, 7 pacemakers, 2 defibrillators and a cardiac death of 2 min 44 sec. Karen was just 16 sec away from suffering permanent brain damage. Despite doctors having told Karen she would not be able to have children, she remarkably gave birth to her healthy son Eric March 8, 1990.
It has been a long road for Karen with many ups and downs along the way. But that hasn’t stopped her from achieving anything she has set her mind on. In fact, she just published a book that has just been released “My 12 Hours Aren’t Up Yet”, a 20-year project Karen has worked diligently creating to share her inspiring story. She shares her journey in her new book to encourage and inspire others, especially anyone going through similar health struggles. Her motto is “They said I couldn’t. That’s why I did” (Jimmy Butler). All proceeds from her book “My 12 Hours aren’t up yet” are going to help launch her foundation “Your New Lease on Life”. Her foundation helps anyone in the U.S. who is in the process of being evaluated for a transplant, all the way to two years post-transplant.

You can purchase her book on Amazon at