Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The beat goes on for heart transplant recipient in Myakka City

Myakka City woman finds a new heart, and the love of her life.

  • East County
  • News
  • Share

It wasn't the typical first date after Angela Horan and Gary Bergstrom met at Seasons 52 in Sarasota on March 17, 2015.

They had come together through the Plenty of Fish dating site, and unlike many who launch profiles, they were honest with each other about everything.

Almost everything.

Horan did leave out one important tidbit. She was wearing a control unit and battery pack that ran her left ventricular assist device. Simply put, she had a mechanically controlled heartbeat.

"Nowhere on her profile did it say, 'I am dying,'" Bergstrom said.

Likely, she figured, it was going to be more of a deal breaker than chain smoking or horrible breath.

Bergstrom was an action kind of guy, who loved to ride motorcycles, hike up mountains and bungee jump. She had wires coming out of her that controlled her heartbeat. One dip in the hot tub and, zap, it would be all over.

He wasn't sure why this woman intrigued him, but she did. Through the course of dinner, he knew he wanted to see her again.

On the way home, he left the parking lot first and she followed him in her car. She started checking her phone and promptly ran into the back end of Bergstrom's car.

This surely would be it. But as Bergstrom approached the driver's side window, he leaned over ... and kissed her.

On March 20, outside their Myakka City home, the two will be married.

Michelle Borrero of Precious Moments Events was at the home last week planning an event that will be attended by close to 300 people, many of whom have been inspired by the couple’s story.

“Gary and Angela are very humble and kind,” Borrero said. “They have gone through a lot, and they are not sweating the small stuff.”

While Horan made a bucket list of things she wanted to do after that first date, Bergstrom made plans. He never once expected she wouldn't be around for the long run.

He did, however, know there would be figurative mountains to climb.

Gary Bergstrom always had faith Angela Horan would come through heart transplant surgery.
Gary Bergstrom always had faith Angela Horan would come through heart transplant surgery.

Horan was on the waiting list for a new heart, and she was fading. Diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at 36, the very system that kept her heart beating also was damaging what was left of it. 

"We would be sitting, having a conversation, and she would pass out," Bergstrom said. "She would have no idea she had blacked out. It was disheartening to experience each night."

But he got her moving.

They went to Key West a few months after meeting and she rode the mechanical bull at Cowboy Bill's. Bergstrom stood up and moved in super slow motion to represent the bull's speed that night. But she did get on it.

The operator asked her why she wanted to go so slow.

"I have wires coming out of me and if one comes out, I will die," she replied.

Later at Coyote Ugly, Bergstrom was looking around for her and eventually looked toward the bar. Horan was dancing on it.

They went deep sea fishing, walked in the ocean (very carefully) and played pool at 8-Ball Lounge in Sarasota.

In Dec, 19, 2015, they received the news that a donor's heart had been found after the death of a 50-year-old Homosassa woman, Laurie Kramer. She had immediate surgery.

Although her body initially rejected the new heart, she slowly improved. In 2018, they went on a motorcycle trip through Europe, seeing Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco and France from the seat of a Harley-Davidson. Riding through the mountains, they rode between snowbanks 7 feet high.

Horan initially thought she would hold Bergstrom back because she didn't know if she would wake up the next morning, but they were doing everything together.

Gary Bergstrom and Angela Horan will be married at their Myakka City home on March 20.
Gary Bergstrom and Angela Horan will be married at their Myakka City home on March 20.

On the five-year anniversary of her heart transplant, Gary proposed at their Myakka City home.

"Only an idiot wouldn't say it's time after everything we've been through," Bergstrom said. 

When the two get married, they will have a special guest in the crowd. Doug Vose, an Alabama, N.Y. resident whose mom's heart now beats in Horan, said he will have tears in his eyes as the two get married.

They won't be tears of sadness.

"I will be there to celebrate," Vose said. "Every time that heart beats, that's a big piece of my mom."

Vose connected with Horan and Bergstrom because mutual friends of the two families had figured out where Kramer's heart had gone. They all hit it off immediately and Vose since has visited Horan and Bergstrom several times in Florida.

"Angela is a wonderful person," Vose said. "It's a hard thing, but I wanted to see who could go on."

Vose said his mother was a giving person, who often volunteered for animal causes, such as saving trumpeter swans.

"It's bittersweet," Vose said. "It's hard to think that one person passing can mean another person can live, but it does."

Vose said his license reflects his desire to be an organ donor.  

Meanwhile, Bergstrom is busy planning for the next chapter of their lives after the wedding. He never had any doubt.

"I've always believed in us as deep as you could believe," he said.

Gary Bergstrom and Angela Horan now have endless possibilities for their future.
Gary Bergstrom and Angela Horan now have endless possibilities for their future.