A Texas high school graduate with an enlarged heart that threatened her life is on the mend after receiving a heart pump in May.

Karla Alonzo, 18, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common disease of the heart muscle that affects how the organ pumps blood, when she was 13 years old, according to a news release. At that point, walking up a flight of stairs caused her to feel short of breath, and she always felt thirsty.

Alonzo, of Port Arthur, would swig liquid throughout the day to try to quench her thirst, but doing so caused her lungs to fill with liquid and further exacerbate her breathing problems. When she went to the doctor, an X-ray illustrated what was really going on: “It looked like my heart was taking over  my whole body,” Alonzo told Texas Children’s Hospital, where she was treated for dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Iki Adachi, congenital heart surgeon at Texas Children's Hospital, and Dr. Aamir Jeewa, pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Hospital,  first prescribed medication to Alonzo to see if it would improve the condition. But they later resorted to implanting a heart pump called the HeartWare HVAD in her chest when the drugs weren’t successful.

Before being discharged, Alonzo and other VAD patients at the hospital went on a supervised trip to help her get adjusted to the device, which is the norm for those patients at Texas Children’s, according to the news release. The ritual held even  more significance for Alonzo because during the trip she walked across stage to receive her diploma with her classmates.

“It means so much to me,” Alonzo said. “I can’t wait to see my friends and make my family proud. Even through all of this, I still get to graduate.”