It has been five years since I received my beautiful gift of life. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined, that I would have met so many incredible moms on my journey of giving back and building a non-profit, Ava’s Heart. It fills my heart to share with you the stories of two very special moms.
I was contacted this past March via avasheart.org asking for assistance from a young mom in Houston. Her name is Kerri, and she is one of my greatest inspirations.
Kerri needed a new heart. She had been on the transplant list in Houston, but was having antibody problems, so she was taken off the list, as this could result in transplant rejection. There are only two hospitals that deal with antibody issues and both are here in Southern California. Kerri needed to come to California to receive treatment and then get on the list here. In order to get on “the list”, you need to be able to prove that you have 3 months of housing near your transplant center. A very costly affair for most families. Ava’s Heart was able to help Kerri receive three months of housing, so she came to Los Angeles.
When I first met Kerri, her husband, her mom and sister, I knew that we were helping a truly wonderful family. Kerri had to leave her children behind with family, so she could come here to wait for her new heart. When we met, she told me her mom searched the Internet and contacted 15 non-profits. Unfortunately, no one responded, accept for Ava’s Heart.
The antibodies are really a problem for her and it was apparent that she would not live long enough to deal with the problem. So Kerri’s only option was an artificial heart. We talked for along time about what this meant for Kerri and what she had to go through. She would have just let go and moved on, if not for her children. Her husband pleaded with her to try, and because of her love for her kids, and for husband, she said yes. Kerri had the surgery in May 2014 and now has a total artificial heart. It is a bridge to transplant. She has since moved her kids here to Palmdale, not close enough to the hospital, but affordable. Her mom and children are here, and her wonderful husband is back home working. She inspires me every day to keep bringing awareness to the problems faced by those that have been given the gift of life. We text all the time and I can say, we are friends.
Ava’s Heart has a partnership with the Robertson Blvd. Med Spa. We organize beauty days and choose one mom of a transplant patient or a patient herself, so they get to have a facial or a massage, as a little pampering is always good! This past week Kerri was ‘our mom’ and she said it was the first time she totally relaxed, since March. It took her mind off herself and she felt like a woman. We pray for her receiving her heart soon and as she and I say, it’s all about gratitude and love.
I met Whitney about a year ago at a patient symposium, where I was a speaker. Whitney came up to me, after the conference, introduced herself, and said, “Hi, I am Whitney. My little baby boy Caiden is waiting for a heart. Once he gets it, we will need housing post-transplant because we live in San Diego.” I promised her we would help. I thought, ‘wow, I like her’! You could tell she was going to get what she needed for her son. Month’s later, there was her application saying, remember me?
Her son, Caiden is now two. He received his heart six moths ago and is still in the hospital. Ava’s Heart helped Caiden get his housing, and we have it on hold for when he is ready. Whitney is special, very special. Her commitment to her son is beyond, beyond. She has two daughters, who now are cared for by her mom. Her husband is in San Diego working, trying to cover the many unexpected costs that come with a long-term illness and with transplant. I myself have visited Caiden often. He is the strongest warrior I have ever met. He holds my finger and we talk.
I know that the love for my daughter made me survive and I know that Kerri chose to get her artificial heart because of her children. I asked Whitney, how do you do this? Her answer, he gives me strength. Whitney was also a recipient of Ava’s Heart beauty day and had her first massage ever. She said, “I could get used to this!”
Both of these incredible moms always check in with me to see how I am. They always have smiles on their faces and I was so happy that I was able to meet them. It was a truly incredible moment.
Three moms, all with different stories, from different backgrounds, with one strong similarity – moms and love.