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From transplant patient to advocate, ‘Heartless’ chronicles journey of faith


Ava Kaufman was enjoying the good life in Los Angeles, living on $27,000 a month from a high-end furniture delivery and installation business she ran with her then-husband, before her world turned upside down.

How she turned her life around after recovering from a potentially fatal heart condition is the subject of her book, “Heartless,” Kaufman co-wrote with Halifax County author Jason Thomas. 

The book follows Ava from death’s door to a new life, with Kaufman showing how to embrace the power of hope, strength and determination through all her travails.

Three years ago, Kaufman’s healthy life came to an abrupt stop when she found herself in bed with a failed heart.

After 10 intense days of being kept alive by machines, she received a heart transplant on her birthday, just in time to save her life.

A breast cancer survivor and former professional dancer, Kaufman was in a coma for seven weeks and had to learn to walk and talk again.

She restored her health and energy after a series of events that can only be described as a “series of miracles.”

Ava’s donor family had inspired her with their kindness and strength in making such an important decision in a time of crisis.

They gave her the gift of life, a second chance and a new purpose, and Kaufman wanted to dedicate the life her donor family gave her to helping others.

After her recovery, Kaufman volunteered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and to date, she has helped hundreds of candidates, transplant recipients and their families on their transplant journey.

Ava’s story was featured on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” for their “Making a Difference” segment, in the Huffington Post and on the cover of The Jewish Journal.

An inspirational blogger for, Kaufman has established a non-profit, Ava’s Heart, which supports people who have been given the gift of life and love a better quality of life.

She also is an ambassador of Donate Life and helps to create awareness on organ donation, in addition to speaking at special events across the country.

“I’ve always been a rebel. I do things my own way, but I get things done, and I do them honestly and fairly, and I think that is why this happened to me – because God has a plan for me,” said Kaufman, who is in the process of founding Ava’s Heart, a foundation to support heart transplant patients.

Proceeds from the book sales will go toward Ava’s Heart, a Los Angeles based 501C3 non-profit organization that provides support for transplant recipients and candidates with limited means or no insurance, ensuring they receive medication and financial aid during their transplant journey.

“I needed to get out of the life I was in before, and since I’m a very dramatic person, God made it all be dramatic so I would have a story to tell, so I could help people.”

Kaufman was raised in suburban New York in a traditional Jewish household, and she still has the mien of the Beverly Hills player she was four years ago.

She now lives on a friend’s ranch in Fillmore, in the Santa Clara River Valley, where Jade, her 14-year-old daughter, does independent online school and rides her horse, Daisy, hours every day.

They live off $1,478 a month in disability payments, supplemented by a modest malpractice settlement.

“It’s weird — when you’ve been through something like this, there is no way you can’t look at life differently,” Kaufman reflected.

“You just do, because you’ve been so close to death, and all you want to do is be able to walk or hold a toothbrush and brush your own teeth, or kiss your child or hug your child.

She said she’s learned to let go of her Type-A personality tendencies, as well as the pretenses and judgments of her old life.

“I’ve totally given up trying to control anything,” Kaufman said, “I just leave it up to God.”

“I guess I enjoy everything more.  I always enjoyed life, and I always had energy and a lust for life, but I approach everything in a much calmer way than I did before.”

Kaufman’s co-author, Jason Thomas, is also the author of “Too Rich: The Story of Doris Duke.”

Thomas is the former vice-president of Carolinas South Film Studios where he oversaw production of 60 motion pictures.

The former senior producer at Four Point Entertainment in Santa Monica, California, Thomas has completed a series of interviews with People Magazine on the book, and said he is in the process of negotiating a movie contract.



To purchase the book, visit