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Published May 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Heart and sole: Transplant recipient to run 5K to promote organ donation

FARGO - Karal Baspaly had her heart set on running her sixth Fargo Marathon 5K, and getting a new one won’t stop her.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO - Karal Baspaly had her heart set on running her sixth Fargo Marathon 5K, and getting a new one won’t stop her.

After the race Friday, the 63-year-old Fargo woman will help spread the word about the importance of organ donation at the Alexa’s Hope booth at the Fargodome.

Alexa’s Hope, one of the 25 GoFar Charities in this year’s Fargo Marathon, provides awareness, education and support for organ donation and transplant efforts.

“There are so many people who need donor parts,” Baspaly said.

While at work Feb. 1, 2011, she suffered a heart attack caused by an open heart valve and was taken to Essentia Health in Fargo.

“After 10 days, they realized they couldn’t do anything,” she said. She was then airlifted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

The widowed mother of one said she was moved to the top of the national list for a heart transplant and underwent surgery Feb. 23.

Three days later, her sister Loraine Ahmann wrote in a journal entry on her CaringBridge page, which has had over 7,000 views:

“She had the oxygen mask on, but had a clipboard, paper & a red pen to write with. The first thing she wrote was: ‘I got a transplant!!!!’ ”

While recovering at the U of M, Baspaly suffered setbacks but also became a first-time grandmother when her son, Theo, and his girlfriend had a baby boy.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be a grandma, but I am,” she said.

Baspaly, a senior billing clerk, returned to work Aug. 1 and hasn’t looked back, despite complications during recovery. She said “a lot of deep breaths and prayers” got her through every step of the way.

“It was a 100 percent God thing,” she said.

She’ll be on anti-rejection medication for life, which weakens her immune system. “I was told if you stop taking your anti-rejection meds, you’ll be dead in two weeks,” she said.

Baspaly was athletic before she received a new heart, and she started exercising as soon as she got the go-ahead from her medical team afterward.

“It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch TV, but that’s not good for your heart,” she said.

Baspaly said she’ll walk the first few minutes of tomorrow’s 5K but hopes to run about half of the distance.

“Once I’m warmed up, I can do almost anything,” she said.

A few months ago, Ahmann marked the one-year anniversary of her sister’s new heart with a post that called for both celebration and reflection:

“Please say a prayer for the donator’s family, as I’m sure this is a very hard day for them,” she wrote. “We are very grateful for their thoughtful gift.”

When she retires in a few years, Baspaly plans to become more involved with organizations such as LifeSource and Second Chance for Life.

Baspaly was hesitant at first to talk about her journey from heart transplant to 5K. “The story isn’t about me; it’s about donation,” she said.


  • Karal Baspaly’s CaringBridge page: www.caringbridge.org/visit/karalbaspaly

  • Second Chance for Life heart and lung transplant support group: www.secondchanceforlife.org

  • LifeSource organ and tissue donation: www.life-source.org

  • Alexa’s Hope, one of the 25 GoFar Charities in the 2012 Fargo Marathon: www.alexashope.org

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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