Hoping for a heart
Marie Magana Cruz, a former Wahiawa resident, was born with a hole in her heart the size of a dime.
"I've never run in my life," she said.
Complications began several years ago, worsening into the most traumatic breakdown in August, when Cruz had to be evacuated from Oahu to California for lifesaving treatment.
Since then every breath she takes has been precious. Cruz, 26, is on a 24-hour portable oxygen machine at a friend's house while she waits for a heart and lung transplant at the nearby Stanford University Medical Center. She lives in Palo Alto.
If finding a matching donor with the same blood type, O, is a long shot, funding the $600,000 transplant is an even longer shot. But Cruz says she is optimistic about raising the money.
Friends and family are spreading the word via the
Internet that a fundraising effort has begun to cover her portion of the operation, the critical follow-up care and related expenses - about $200,000 - after medical insurance kicks in.
The hole in her heart is too large to be stitched closed, and her lungs have to be
replaced due to excessive pressure and wear from inadequate oxygen levels in her blood, said Cruz, who formerly worked at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group on Oahu.
The magnitude of what she is up against sometimes overwhelms her, but she tries to remain upbeat by joking about all the treatment she has undergone. "I try to laugh it out. ... I don't want to calibrate how scared I am. I'm scared but good (OK)," she said.
Her sister, Florelyn Kam of Oahu, said their family is afraid of losing her while waiting for a matching heart and lungs, "but I'm glad there's hope and everyone's trying to help her."
Cruz is covered by the Hawaii Medical Service Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield, but there are conflicts she must first resolve. She wants to have the operation performed by Stanford University's Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, where she has built trust in the specialists caring for her.
Blue Cross will pay for 5 to 10 percent of the transplant if she stays at Stanford but would cover 60 percent at its preferred hospital in Ohio, Cruz said.
"I can't afford the transplant if it's at Stanford, but I don't want to be in an unfamiliar state and hospital (in Ohio). I can't fly on commercial or HVAC (emergency medical) planes because the flight's
altitude will dramatically decrease my lungs' oxygen saturation," she said.
Taxing her heart even more, Cruz's husband recently filed for divorce. But she is currently being cared for by friend Linda Claus, whom she calls "Mama Linda" because Claus always wanted a daughter.
TO MAKE A DONATION
Tax-deductible contributions to aid Marie Magana Cruz can be made through the National Transplant Assistant Fund via www.transplantfund.org or by calling (800) 642-8399.
Or mail checks to NTAF, 150 N. Radnor Chestor Road, Suite F-120, Radnor, PA 19087. Make checks payable to the Southwest Heart/Lung Transplant Fund and note in the memo section "In honor of Marie Cruz."