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Cronkite News: Scarred for life: Heart transplant doesn’t discourage ASU freshman, it inspires her

By Jake Santo

As she lay on the floor of the volleyball court, strangers pressing paddles against her chest and the color dissipating from her face, Olivia Eisenhauer fought for her life.

An eighth-grade student at the time, she was walking off the court of a summer volleyball competition in Shawnee, Kansas, when she suddenly and violently collapsed to the ground. As concerned onlookers and her parents stood beside her, they first believed it was nothing but a minor injury suffered from the normal grind of sport.

“We thought it might be dehydration or something. It’s the middle of summer,” said Rod Eisenhauer, Olivia’s father. “She wouldn’t come to, so immediately it became more of a serious situation.”

More than 600 miles away, in Greeley, Colorado, Connor Gillmore was forging a life for himself. A great kid with a huge heart, his parents would say, he would always offer to help out someone in need. The oldest of four children, Connor was in high school discovering his passion.


He did not mind spending long hours working on the several cars he owned, and enjoyed the work before taking them out for a drive in the Colorado mountains.

Four years later, his journey would collide with Eisenhauer’s on Dec. 3, 2018.

That’s the day 16-year-old Eisenhauer received a new heart. It belonged to Gillmore, who was 22 and had suffered severe injuries from a car accident.

As fate would have it – and fate reared its head in the strangest of ways with these two – Olivia was at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas in Kansas City for a routine check-up when she learned that after a long wait, a heart was available to her.


Olivia was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the oxygen levels and viability of her heart.

“The top half of my heart was perfectly fine, but the bottom half of the muscle was incredibly tense and I needed double the oxygen for it,” Olivia said. “I could barely walk up steps without borderline passing out because I would just get winded.”

The family soon learned that “the only choice was to do a heart transplant,” her doctor, Aliessa Barnes, director of cardiac transplantation at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said in a video for the American Heart Association.

After a 10-hour operation at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Olivia had a perfect, beating heart in place. She was given a second lease on life, cured of the endless trepidation and angst that consumed the years since her first cardiac arrest.


Read the full story via Cronkite News

Learn more about The Ward Family Heart Center at Children's Mercy