"First-year costs, from start to finish — which includes medical evaluations, the donor organ, surgery and post-operation expenses including medication — can run from $500,000 to $800,000..."MARIECAR MENDOZA • THE DESERT SUN
Sarah Bremner has been waiting for a special gift, and she doesn't know how much more her heart can take.
Bremner, 52, of La Quinta, has been on the heart transplant list for nearly three months.
Her doctors don't know how long she must wait for her new heart, but said she'll need to be ready at all times.
“It's almost like giving birth. You know you're going to give birth within a month, but you don't know the day,” said Bremner, a mother of two teens. “They could call this afternoon, and I'd have to go quick because hearts only last four to six hours outside of the body of a donor.”
Amid all the uncertainty, however, Bremner knows she has strong support from her family and her “other family” at Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert, where she has worked for 10 years.
Coworkers and friends Camille Ibarra, Heather Lamb, Dave Dorohoy and Blain Graham have been planning a fundraiser to help with medical costs.
Bremner only found out last month when the group started publicizing the event.
“It's humbling,” Bremner said. “I'm just overwhelmed that they're doing this for me.”
Bremner was diagnosed last year with cardiomyopathy, a disease that can lead to heart failure.
Her friends have been working with the National Transplant Assistance Fund for months to organize a golf tournament at Terra Lago golf course in Indio on Dec. 6.
The event is limited to 128 participants.
The goal: $75,000.
All proceeds go to the NTAF Southwest Heart Transplant Fund in honor of Bremner. The money will then be used to pay Bremner's medical costs not covered by her health insurance, said Joni Henderson, patient services coordinator with NTAF.
First-year costs, from start to finish — which includes medical evaluations, the donor organ, surgery and post-operation expenses including medication — can run from $500,000 to $800,000, Henderson said.
Ibarra said Bremner has given to her community for years. The two met before working together through the National Charity League of the Coachella Valley, a mother-daughter volunteer organization.
“And this time, it's only right to give back to Sarah.”
Cardiomyopathy can be caused by heart damage from a heart attack, high blood pressure or, as in Bremner's case, a viral infection, according to the American Heart Association.
As the disease progresses, the heart becomes weak and isn't able to pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body.
For Bremner, her heart pumps less than a quarter of the blood it needs, said Dr. Michele Hamilton, clinical professor of cardiology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and co-director of the UCLA Heart Failure Program.
Hamilton is Bremner's doctor at UCLA, where the heart transplant surgery will take place.
Bremner's heart has gotten so weak that in February she received an implanted defibrillator. If her heart begins to beat at a dangerous rhythm, the defibrillator can shock it back to normal.
“There are some patients, because of advanced medical therapy, that can live active lives with this disease,” Hamilton said. “But then there are some like Mrs. Bremner, whose heart is too weak that it really affects quality of life — and that's when you get considered for a transplant.”
Bremner will receive the heart from a brain-dead donor.
“It's bittersweet for me, because I know that someone has to die for me to live,” Bremner said. “But I guess it's just all part of a bigger plan.”
The one-year survival rate for heart transplants is between 90 to 95 percent at UCLA, Hamilton said. At 10 years, more than half of heart transplant patients are still alive and doing well.
“It's scary, but exciting,” Bremner said. “I just can't wait to get back to my life.”
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
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