After life-saving heart transplant, teen strives to save others

COCOA BEACH, FL - Nine years ago, Cristina Cinca and Zane Schultz had no clue that their lives were setting them on course toward a common cause.

Cristina, 15, was diagnosed in 2007 with restrictive cardiomyopathy – heart disease with thickening and stiffening of the heart muscle. Months later, Schultz’s friend Rafe Maccarone died from sudden cardiac arrest after collapsing on the soccer field during practice.  Now, they both pour their energy into preventing  sudden cardiac death in youngsters.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, Cristina and Schultz was among the hundreds in Cocoa Beach lining up in front of Coconuts on the Beach to celebrate Cristina’s new lease on life.

“I had a heart transplant when I was 13, and it was quite the journey,” Cristina, now 15, told FLORIDA TODAY. “I am putting on a walk to celebrate my second year for my transplant, and I decided to donate the funds.”

Yep, you guessed it -- the money Cristina pulls in at the walk will go to Who We Play For, the nonprofit founded in memory of Rafe by Schultz and other friends. The group was started in Brevard after Rafe’s death to provide education and athlete heart screenings. Last year, the nonprofit conducted just under 19,000 screenings across seven states, said Schultz, 25.

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