Couple from Virginia who met in the hospital after getting heart transplants on the same day get married
In the case of Taylor Givens, 29, and Collin Kobelja, 34, it was all about being in the right place at the right time. For the two organ transplant patients, Virginia’s Inova Fairfax Hospital was the right place.
Mr. Kobelja and Ms. Givens each received a heart transplant on June 9, 2011, and were recovering a few hospital rooms apart. Their initial encounters with each other were unremarkable and Collin’s interactions with Taylor when they crossed paths at doctor’s appointments were cold.
A Facebook message from Collin to Taylor, five years after their transplants, sparked a romance. On that Thursday, while Taylor waited for discharge forms at the hospital, Collin paid her a visit. Taylor said there was “a really strong bond that I don’t think either of us expected.”
They soon began dating and married in 2019. Although they have both had serious medical concerns since they first met – Taylor was diagnosed and is now in remission from lymphoma and Collin had to undergo three more heart transplants – say them having the other by their side makes it easier to overcome challenges.
Taylor and Collin married in 2019 and have since settled in Maryland (photo courtesy of Collin Kobelja’s Instagram)
In 2020, Taylor underwent cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a catheter is moved through a blood vessel to the heart to better diagnose heart disease.
In sickness and in health: Taylor stayed by Collin’s side through a double organ transplant in May 2022, receiving a new heart and kidney. Collin, meanwhile, has done the same for Taylor on many occasions (photo courtesy of Collin Kobelja’s Instagram)
It can take months or even years to get on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and about 3,500 Americans are waiting for a new heart. But the field of transplantation is aimed at shortening the length of time a patient has to be on the waiting list by introducing methods such as the use of a pig heart.
Collin was born with a congenital heart defect and was wheeled to the OR for heart surgery at three days old. He had his first heart transplant when he was 17 months old.
Growing up, Collin enjoyed the same activities as many other boys his age: tae kwon-do lessons, swimming and fooling around with friends that sometimes got him into trouble with his teachers, according to the Washingtonian. He did well. But in 2011, at the age of 22, he began to feel sick, but attributed it to the flu.
Collin’s blood pressure skyrocketed and his parents rushed him to the cardiologist who concluded the young man had heart failure and put him on the list for another transplant with 1A status, the highest priority category.
Meanwhile, Taylor, a trained soprano singer with a close circle of friends and a goal to become a music therapist, discovered during her senior year of high school that her heart was enlarged and was not pumping enough blood through her body.
The percentage of blood pumped from her heart, which should be about 60 percent and above, was 10 percent.
Taylor’s prognosis was bleak. But in June, Taylor and Collin both underwent surgeries.
The road to recovery was rough and Taylor missed her high school graduation. Centerville High School officials gave her an ad hoc ceremony in her hospital room, after which Collin’s mother noticed that Taylor had to notify Collin.
Collin didn’t seem to care, while Taylor was desperate to link up with someone facing similar challenges. At follow-up doctors’ appointments with their cardiologist, Collin brushed Taylor off, citing an overall unhappiness that prevented him from interacting with others.
Taylor told the Washingtonian, “I thought, ‘He’s such a jerk.’ I hate him.”
In 2018, Taylor completed chemotherapy to treat a fast-growing form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Years after an unremarkable first meeting, the couple got back together in 2016 and married three years later
“I thought, ‘He’s such a jerk. I hate him,'” Taylor said of her first encounter with Collin in the hospital (photo taken in 2019 and courtesy of Collin Kobelja’s Instagram)
They became “friends” on social media, but maintained minimal contact for the most part, at least until June 2016, when Collin approached her on Facebook asking if their cardiologist was still practicing at the hospital where they had their procedures because he wanted to drop by for a visit.
Taylor, meanwhile, was in the hospital. Collin went to her hospital bed and after talking for about 15 minutes, they noticed the chemistry between them.
Taylor said, “It was just a really strong bond that I don’t think either of us was expecting.”
Soon they were exchanging numbers, texting and making plans to meet outside a hospital room. Five days later, they met at a nearby Chinese restaurant. In what could have been a quintessentially heartwarming scene in an unconventional rom-com, they laughed as they both had to take their meds, the same ones, at the same time during dinner.
Mr Kobelja told CBS: ‘It was great to date someone you don’t have to explain anything to.
“You can just live your life in a normal way.”
It didn’t take them long to realize they wanted to be together.
Collin said, “It was just feelings… We just knew.”
But a new diagnosis would complicate their story and interrupt their plans to share a life together. Taylor was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which left her with malignant tumors in her abdomen and chest.
However, she successfully completed treatment and is in remission. Taylor and Collin exchanged their vows in 2019. They have since settled in Maryland.