From a mountain climber to a half-marathon runner to a young woman who has undergone dozens of surgeries, these people shined during the past year.
One has endured several lifetimes worth of heart surgeries.
Another has risen to great heights, literally, after an organ transplant.
Another tracked down the strangers who saved him near the finish line of a half marathon.
These are the people in our inspiring health-related stories of 2017.
Amid the opioid epidemic and the political debates over the Affordable Care Act, there were a half-dozen individuals who brought us hope during a sometimes difficult year.
Here’s a recap of those six stories that appeared on Healthline in the past 12 months.
Bethany Gooch is only 20 years old.
But she has survived dozens of heavy-duty medical procedures.
We met Gooch in February when an American Heart Association profile detailed the 32 surgeries she’s had in her young life.
Gooch was born with a pair of serious heart defects.
For the first part of her life, Gooch had a surgery every six months.
“It was pretty much just a part of my life,” she said.
The surgeries, however, kept her alive long enough until science could come up with better treatments for her ailments.
A friend she made at a camp for children with heart disease died from her condition.
Gooch said the memory of her friend helped see her through several more surgeries, including a heart valve replacement in 2015.
Gooch now plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
When Dr. Arie Szatkowski was 23, his father, who was a doctor, died suddenly of a heart attack.
A few years later during his fellowship at Columbia University, Szatkowski was diagnosed with his own heart ailment.
A professor conducting an ultrasound on Szatkowski as part of a class told him he had atrial septal defect.
The condition is basically a hole in the wall between the heart’s two upper chambers.
Without that discovery, Szatskowski might have experienced a stroke or other serious cardiovascular events.
A cardiac catheterization fixed the defect.
In his story that was published in March, Szatkowski said his condition provided him with personal insight into a heart patient’s perspective and the passion to make a difference.
Denice and Ted Lombard reached an anniversary and celebrated a milestone this year.
In August, the father and daughter celebrated the 50th anniversary of their historic kidney transplant.
Along the way, they became the oldest living kidney donor-recipient pair.
The transplant happened in 1967 when Ted donated a kidney to his then 13-year-old daughter.
Six years earlier, Denice’s twin sister, Diane, died from kidney failure.
Both the girls had a rare genetic disorder that slowly deteriorated their kidneys. It wasn’t until 2005 that the disorder was diagnosed as Frasier syndrome.
Denice stayed in the hospital for 21 days after that surgery.
Today, at 63, she’s healthy and active.
Her father, now 88, is also healthy.
When their story appeared on Healthline in April, the father-daughter duo was in the midst of encouraging others to become organ donors.
Bill Hughes was halfway through his 10-kilometer race in Virginia when disaster struck.
Hughes grabbed his daughter’s arm, yelled “Oh my gosh!” and collapsed.
His daughter gave him CPR as did other people standing nearby.
Their actions helped save the 61-year-old retired Army officer.
Hughes underwent surgery a few days later for a triple bypass.
He began cardiac rehabilitation soon after and then, 50 days later, he returned to the race course.
Hughes ran the second half of the course with family members and some of his rescuers.
Hughes has a family history of cardiovascular diseases.
He feels lucky and thankful he survived his mid-race problem.
“It’s overwhelming to think about how many people saved me and all the support I’ve gotten,” he was quoted as saying when his story appeared in April.
Bill Amirault didn’t know who had saved him.
But he was determined to find out.
Amirault was nearing the finish line of a Florida half-marathon in January when he began to feel faint, slowed to a walk, and eventually collapsed.
The first three people to reach him were nurses. They called 911 and performed CPR until ambulances arrived.
Their actions saved his life.
As he recovered, the 45-year-old Colorado man set out to find those strangers who had rushed to his aid.
From his hospital bed, he recorded a video thanking his rescuers.
He shared the message on Facebook. It quickly received 1.7 million views.
That’s how the three nurses learned Amirault had survived.
They were reunited on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show in early April.
Amirault eventually left his software engineering job to focus on Move4Charity, a nonprofit he started.
In his story that Healthline published in May, Amirault said he felt he was now on “bonus time” and wanted to start paying forward.
It’s been more than 20 years since Kelly Perkins received a new heart.
But she hasn’t slowed down since that 1995 transplant surgery.
Since her operation, she has climbed mountains on five continents.
She’s also told her story around the world to motivate people to make the most of their lives — and to donate organs to help others do the same.
“The body is so resilient. I wanted to shake the image of being sick and show what a transplanted heart can do,” Perkins was quoted as saying when her story was posted in July.
Since her transplant, Perkins has written a book on her mountain climbing and founded the Moving Hearts Foundation.