AMHERST, N.H. (CBS) — Patti Mahoney of Amherst, New Hampshire is back at home and ready to ride in this year’s annual Fourth of July parade through her town.

It’s something she couldn’t have done a year ago when she was waiting for the heart transplant that would save her life.

“I feel amazing. I feel fantastic. It’s like night and day,” she says.

This year Patti will ride the route with her family to spread the word about organ donation. She just returned to New Hampshire after a grueling three months in Los Angeles. Patti and her husband Paul had to move there while she waited for a heart to become available.

“I’m very lucky. I received my heart on St. Patrick’s day.”

It was two weeks after they traveled west. She decided to get on the California transplant list on the advice of her doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They knew she would have a better chance somewhere other than New England.

The I-Team discovered that New England transplant patients wait longer than almost anyone in the country for organs. It’s in part a consequence of this region’s comparative good health. However, it means patients like Patti can wait years for the organs they need.

Just last week, local radio host Andy Blacksmith died while he waited.

Patti is dedicating her Independence Day organ donor push to Blacksmith.

“His dying wish was for people to become organ donors.”

She is eternally grateful she says. She knows the only reason she is celebrating now with her family is because a 24-year-old California woman made a life-saving choice.

“I’m going to take care of this heart and she’s always going to be with me,” Patti said.

She hopes others who hear her story will be inspired to give the same gift.

For more information, visit the Donate Life New England website.

Lauren Leamanczyk can be reached at llleamanczyk@cbs.com or @LaurenWBZ.

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