Big Hearts, Big Goals: Meet Michelle Javian and Yuki Kotani of Harboring Hearts Housing Foundation
The inspiring story of two remarkable women who are helping heart disease patients and their families – one heart at a time.
Heart disease may be the number one killer in both American men and women, but it’s not every day that you meet someone who’s dealing with it at the exact same time you are. Michelle Javian and Yuki Kotani were at a party celebrating their new, post-college status, when a friend introduced them – it turned out their fathers were both receiving heart transplants with the same doctor at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
They didn’t know it at the time, but Michelle and Yuki’s fateful meeting would spark the creation of Harboring Hearts Housing Foundation, the New York-based non-profit that provides housing for patients and their families while they undergo cardiac surgery.
Michelle and Yuki came up with the idea for Harboring Hearts after realizing how hard it was to visit their fathers in the hospital day in and day out, even though they lived in New York. “I noticed so many families that traveled from all over the world for the best cardiac care, and they were sleeping on sofas, taking showers at other people’s apartments, and eating really unhealthily,” Michelle recalls. “It was clear they didn’t have the support they needed.”
Indeed, a social worker Michelle spoke with at the hospital confirmed that besides paying medical bills, finding housing was the most difficult logical aspect for heart disease patients. “There’s no facility in New York or anywhere in the world really that focuses on cardiac housing right now,” says Michelle. “Meanwhile, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States.”
Unfortunately, Michelle knows this firsthand – her father passed away due to complications from his heart transplant surgery (Yuki’s father is now healthy and living in Hawaii). But instead of collapsing from her personal tragedy, Michelle was inspired to have her father live on through her own efforts. Michelle approached Yuki with the idea of helping the heart patients and their families who needed housing, and the two friends started to develop Harboring Hearts Housing Foundation.