Living life without a pulse.

On her better days, Courtney Brown laments the simple pleasures in life she can no longer enjoy: bubble baths, swimming in the pool with her two kids, freedom from the machine tethered to her heart that is keeping her alive.

On her darker days, Brown wonders, “Why me?” Why did her heart fail suddenly at the age of 30, just weeks after her second child was born? Why did she receive the terrible news that she would need a heart transplant and, until that day came, would remain connected to a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to stay alive? Why did this happen to her?

Brown tries not to let those negative thoughts overwhelm her.

“I just keep going every day and tell myself, ‘I am OK.’ At one point, I thought I wouldn’t make it to see my kids go grow up, but my youngest who was just a newborn when I was diagnosed is now 3 years old and I’m still here. I’m still alive,” she said. “I try to keep a positive attitude for me, for my kids and for the people around me.”

Spend a day with Brown and you would never know she was sick. She’s an active mother of two children and she runs her own event planning business, Posh Tea Parties, which hosts elaborate and ornate affairs for little princesses. She’s on-the-go from the minute she wakes, shepherding the kids to school, mentoring with a fellow entrepreneur party planner and decorator, and then rushing home to help with homework, dinner and bedtime routines.

Maybe because of her cheery outlook or her refusal to slow down, people who aren’t familiar with Brown’s story don’t realize she is alive because of an LVAD, a machine that performs the work of her heart. The only signs of Brown’s condition are the ubiquitous black purse containing her LVAD that she keeps strapped to her body and her lack of a pulse. If you pressed your ear against her chest, you wouldn’t hear a thumping heartbeat. Instead, you would hear the gentle whirring of the machine that keeps the blood flowing throughout her body.

Brown still has a tough time grasping what happened to her. Four years ago, she was celebrating her 30th birthday with family and friends in New Orleans when she suddenly found it difficult to catch her breath. She dismissed the episode as an asthma attack, but when her symptoms didn’t improve within a week, she decided to seek medical treatment. The medical team performed an X-ray of her chest and delivered some surprising news: Brown had an enlarged heart – a condition she had likely been born with but was never diagnosed – and she was careening toward complete heart failure.

She was transferred to Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center  to receive more intensive care from Dr. Sriram Nathan and Dr. Pranav Loyalka, cardiovascular disease specialists  with the Institute and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. They initially tried a more conservative treatment regimen – medication and a special vest equipped with a defibrillator to shock her back to life if she suddenly collapsed. But when her symptoms continued to worsen, it was clear she would need a new heart.

Because of her blood type and other health concerns, Brown may face a long wait for a transplant. In the meantime, she had an LVAD implanted so she could continue to wait for that lifesaving call at home with her family.

The LVAD is an implantable device that circulates blood from the left ventricle of the heart to the rest of the body, and can serve as a bridge to heart transplantation or as a long-term treatment option for patients who can’t receive a transplant. Since the technology was introduced decades ago, it has helped extend the lives of people with advanced heart failure and offered them a better quality of life.

For Brown, the LVAD has been both a blessing and a constant reminder of the hardship she now faces. Since her implantation in 2014, she has struggled to cope with her new limitations. The machine can’t get wet, so she has had to give up the things she used to love.

“It’s the simple stuff that I took for granted before, like taking my kid to the pool or bathing my baby,” she said. “It can be tough explaining to my children that mommy can’t play in the water with them.”

In addition, she must remain connected to the device 24/7, which she carries in a discrete crossbody bag and keeps a constant eye on the battery level to ensure it has enough power. She has nightmares that someone might mistake her LVAD carrier for a purse and try to snatch it from her. If she were ever to lose access to electricity, she would need to be rushed  to the hospital immediately.

“It can be a little anxiety provoking,” she said. “But the alternative – not having the LVAD – is even scarier to imagine.”

Still, despite her challenges, Brown has pushed through her fears and continues living life to the fullest. She is also using her diagnosis as an opportunity to educate others about heart health and the importance of blood donation.

In 2013, Brown hosted a blood drive and organ donation registration event to celebrate her birthday – also the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis – where more than 100 friends, family members and co-workers gathered. She has continued the tradition, organizing a blood drive on her birthday each year. In addition, she was recently invited to share her story at a gathering of hundreds of people at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.

Although her disease has made life more difficult than before she was diagnosed and presents her with new challenges she continues to overcome every day, Brown remains stubbornly optimistic that her best days are still ahead.

“One day, I will receive a heart transplant thanks to an organ donor,” Brown said. “And I’ll continue to be the mom, the wife, the sister and the daughter that I am today.”

To learn more about heart transplants and heart disease, visit our Heart Month page.


  1. My cousin is truly a trooper and an inspiration to all. We know because she is engulfed with many prayers from family, friends and even strangers which continues to bless her life.

  2. Courtney
    Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think. Thank You Lord in advance for hearing our prayer cries on behalf of Courtney. Thank You that You have already prepared a heart for her. You are Jehovah Rophe, God our Healer. Nothing is too hard for You. Thank You for the miracle we shall behold.
    In the Precious Name of Jesus the Christ!

  3. Courtney you are a beautiful woman with a wonderful story to tell about God’s Grace and Mercy toward us. What a blessing you are to all of us and we thank you for your testimony.
    Love and Blessings!

  4. Courtney, I truly believe that God has set our destiny from the time we were born. This is part of your destiny. He chose you because you are so very special and He knew that you are the one that could do this Huge Task for Him. As I read your story, I know that God has not brought you this far to leave you! Everyone in our family is lifting you in prayers.

  5. To God Be The Glory! Courtney stay encouraged! Father God we thank you for this beautiful angel! We thank you for your complete healing over her body! We thank you for your strength that you give her daily so that she can live a Christ like life! We decree, and declare that you are healed! In Jesus name Amen!

  6. Keep the faith, the lord will provide the lord is my shepherd he will supply all my needs, he did it for me and he will do it for you.

  7. You are an amazing woman !!!! I thank God for you and your testimony!!!! Praying for you and loving you through the journey!!!You are victorious !!!

  8. Keep the faith and know that God is showing you favor, grace and mercy. Prayerfully your day is coming soon. Continue to inspire others

  9. I too am a LVAD patient of Dr. Loyalka and Dr. Jumean. I am currently admitted receiving Plasmapheresis and Chemotherapy in hope of a Transplant very soon. Best of luck to you and this tedious journey!

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Tashika Varma