Weeks before graduating with a masters in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art, Amy Sherald was told her heart was only functioning at 18%. But cardiomyopathy (a rare heart disease) didn’t stop her from painting. So she carried on, painting day and night while she waited tables five days a week to pay for treatment. That is, until a routine stop at Rite Aid for art supplies almost turned deadly. What seemed like an ordinary heart flutter caused Sherald to blackout in the aisle only to wake up in a pool of blood underneath her head. But even as she was rushed to John Hopkins Hospital in an ambulance, she held on to her dream. “I’m not going to be afraid, it’s all going to be okay,” she told herself. Even as her heart dropped to 5% functionality, she wanted to paint. But overcoming the heart transplant wasn’t so easy. Due to physical ailments and the depressing side-effects of the medication, she could not paint for a year. “I told my friends, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ It felt stupid and selfish,” she explained in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. But as the effect of the anti-rejection heart transplant meds lessened, Sherald reconnected herself with her six-year old inner child that dreamed of becoming a painter.

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