Ava Kaufman And Tina Hill Talk About Their Book “Shark Heart” And The Non-Profit “Ava’s Heart”

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By David Jordan Jr

Life affords the living the opportunity to make a difference in the world in by what they do while on this earth and by the legacy that extends well beyond into the future. Circumstances and situations allow people to cross paths in ways that can be impactful to the world.

Ava Kaufman and Tina Hill are two people whose lives together, bonded by a friendship has provided hope and opportunity for those seeking a donor organ. As friends, Hill and Kaufman have supported and been there for each other in ways only friends can; in circumstances, life has enabled them to be a light for those seeking to extend their lives as organ recipients and health recovery.

Ava and Tina recently talked to ESHE Magazine about their book “Shark Heart” and the non-profit, “Ava’s Heart.”

David Jordan Jr: The inspiration for the book “Shark Heart” is a unique combination of life experiences that show the gift of life and how precious it is to gift life to others in this world. Outside of being friends, both of you have unique life stories that have intertwined to not only educate the world, but inspire the world. How did you all develop the concept for this book with real life stories?

Tina: In reading the book, you will learn about our friendship. But the inspiration for the book came from watching Ava waking up from her coma, the fear and utter bewilderment that ran across her face – not being able to speak or move – being nailed to her bed – was torturous, not only for her, but to watch. It was a helpless feeling, and no amount of words were going to make her fully understand what was happening to her. So I  wrote what became the prologue for her book and I gave it to her once she was out of the hospital. Ava was so moved by the fact that someone knew what she was actually feeling that day, that she asked me to write her story. Once Ava had established Ava’s Heart, and really saw the need for the stories of the entire community to be told, the concept for the book became clear. These are all people with lives and loves –heartbreaks and successes – and they have stories that need to be heard. Because somewhere, one of these stories is going to affect someone and they will become a donor, or they will choose some other way to give altruistically to Life.

David Jordan Jr: Your second chance at life has been a springboard for a multitude of outlets to help and inspire other people. When you received your initial diagnosis, received your transplant and began your recovery and therapy, what was the driving force for you to move forward each day?

Tina: Ava was not actually ever diagnosed. She didn’t know she had a heart transplant until it had already happened. She dropped dead in the doorway of her house, after being told she had psoriasis. She was rushed to Cedars Sinai and put on life support. She was in a coma for 2 months and was in the hospital for another 2 months after that, learning to walk and talk again.

David Jordan Jr: Witnessing your friend at her lowest point of health and also seeing her bounce

back with vengeance, how did that affect your perspective on life?

Tina: Honestly, I expected this from her. I went to the hospital every single day – even when she was in her coma. People stop coming – you know? They give up and go back to their lives. But I just couldn’t believe this had happened to Ava. She was so strong and fit and so full of life – and I just knew that she was going to pull through. One night, a doctor told me things “weren’t looking good” – and I just said to him, “Well, you don’t know her. She is just taking a well-deserved rest.” My perspective on life is that anything can and does happen. Love will carry us all through. Truly.

David Jordan Jr: The book presents the power of giving, resilience and love. During the writing process, what was the common element that you all found in listening to the various stories from those individuals and families that you talked to?

Ava & Tina: We found that faith played such a strong element in every story. Whether it was a doctor having faith that he or she could make a difference in the world, or a mother who had lost her son having faith that he was living on, their belief in something greater than themselves was the thread that really binds all of the stories together. When asking the family of each donor how they know that their loved one is still with them, they would light up. They would tell us the signs that they were sent. Whether feathers being dropped into their living rooms or a bluebird where there should not have been one, they all saw signs – and it gave them some measure of peace.

David Jordan Jr: Organ donors help in the continuance of life. There is so much that is involved in the process of obtaining an organ when in need, as well as the process of recovery after receiving an organ. The non-profit Ava’s Heart helps donor recipients with financial assistance in various capacities to ensure they are able to live and return to top health. As a person that has lived the experience of a donor recipient, what inspired you to create Ava’s Heart?

Ava: Ava’s Heart was inspired by the promise that she made to God. She died that terrible day in February 2009. She was on life support and needed a heart. She never knew she needed that. But when she woke up from her coma, and was finally able to talk again, she talked about how she was deep under water and God spoke to her and told her He had given her the heart of a shark, because it was bigger and stronger than her heart that had died. She saw a bright light and wanted to go toward it, but suddenly smelled her 11-year-old daughter’s dirty hair. It smelled like the barn where she rode horses. So Ava promised God that if He would let her come back and be a mother to her little girl, she would spend the rest of her life giving back. The need she discovered on her journey as a hospital volunteer for other families going through what she went through, was that without 3 months of post-transplant housing, a potential recipient couldn’t even get listed. So many people need life-saving organs, but the surgeries are done in big hospitals in expensive cities. Not everyone can afford to live in Los Angeles, or New York or D.C. Ava’s Heart gives that housing completely free of charge. There are no organizations that assist donor families. Ava also gives small grants to assist donor families in burial expenses for their loved ones.


David Jordan Jr: In writing “Shark Heart” and in witnessing the way Ava’s Heart has impacted so many lives, do you think there has been an increased awareness about the importance of donating organs?

Tina: I think a lot of people talk about organ donation and it is becoming more and more prevalent, as those who have platforms use them to speak up. However, there are other issues in the transplant community – like the need for post-transplant housing, that medical insurance does not cover. People are on their own to find this, and if they can’t, they don’t get listed. They have to be close to their transplant centers for all post operative check-ups. While this is totally understandable, as they have been given a precious second chance at life, the medical community does not contribute to this aspect of the transplant world. Patients are alone – except for Ava’s Heart. She is a beacon of light. 35% of all transplants in the United States are done in Los Angeles, so the need here is great – but she does this all on her own from her dining room table.



Ava is being honored at the International Women’s Day Gala on

Friday, March 8, 2024


Taglyan Complex

1201 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA

Contact Information

Ava Kaufman



K.B. Hill








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