The Pryor Times

March 18, 2014

From one heart to another

Salina resident awaits heart transplant

Times Correspondent
Diana Dickinson

PRYOR, OK — “I feel bad that someone will lose their life, in order to save mine,” said Gina Small, 58, of Salina.

Small is anxiously awaiting for the call from the heart transplant team at Nazih Zahdi Transplantation Institute in Oklahoma City. Diagnosed in 1993 with post-partum Cardiomyopathy, Small's health has since been declining.  

“I never had any problems until 20 days after the birth of my last child when I had suffered congestive heart failure and continued to have several episodes later on,” she said.

Small wears a life support device called an LVAD (Left Ventricle Assist Device), that weighs a little over 10 pounds and is worn around her waist 24/7. “It does get real heavy and limits me at times. It gets more frustrating than anything. It is hard to do normal things like everyone else. I have 10 grandchildren and I would love to be able to do more with them. Six of them live nearby and they always want to do stuff that I cannot do.”  

Being on the heart transplant list for eight months can be discouraging, but her team of doctors keep her reassured and positive. “I am hoping to get one soon.  I just do not like the idea of someone losing a family member, although I am very grateful to receive the gift. The information of the donor is confidential unless the family wants me to know. I would like to know who it is because my life will be extended because of whoever it is.”  

Small's quality of life has decreased as well as her finances. As a result, fundraising efforts have been ongoing to assist with the costs anticipated with the transplant. It is estimated that an average heart transplant cost is close to one million dollars. Medicare will pay for the surgery, but she faces a significant amount of expenses related to post-operative care. The generic brand of anti-rejection medication will run $5,901.72 a month which does not include additional medication needed after the transplant or the cost of the lifetime follow-up.   

“I get excited every time the phone rings because it could be the transplant team calling me to head that way,” Small said.  

Once she receives the transplant, Small will need to relocate temporarily near the hospital for a little over a month. In order to help stave off costs, she is required as a member of the National Foundation for Transplants to raise money to donate back to the foundation which in turn will help pay for her monthly medication.  

Last week, members of the Blue Springs Church in Salina hosted a yard sale and raised close to $1,300 in a two-day period. The plans are to continue to have a benefit dinner and horse shoe tournament in May.  

Anyone wishing to donate may do so several different ways by sending a check or money order to: NFT OK Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave. Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119 and put “In Honor of Gina Small” on the memo line, by going directly to the NFT website and search for her name/city to make a tax deductible donation or by contacting Ruth Sullateskee at 918-855-4219 to see when the next fund raising events are scheduled.

Small expressed mixed emotions about receiving the transplant. It will be both a happy and sad day.