At age 30, just after her third child was born, Heather (Boyes) Johnson suffered a rare form of heart attack called a coronary arterial dissection. She was rushed from her home into surgery where doctors performed a triple bypass operation to save her life. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the blockage, a large part of her heart was no longer functioning. A pacemaker was installed and Heather was placed on the list for a transplant.
Over the next year and a half her health continued to deteriorate. All we could do was hope she would survive long enough to find a new heart. Against all odds, just before Christmas in 2005, she received a call from the transplant team. They had found a match. She was rushed to Tucson where a successful transplant was performed. However, that didn’t come without complications. During the operation she lost permanent use of one lung when nerves to her diaphragm were severed. We didn’t know it then, but those complications would mark the beginning of Heather’s journey to survive.
A lifelong regiment of anti-rejection medication means her organs are in a constant state of degradation. Her pancreas suffers, and she monitors her blood sugar regularly due to diabetes brought on by the medication.
Insulin dependent diabetes means a whole host of other problems as well (worsening eyesight, nerve damage, numbness, chronic pain). Her kidneys are failing and she requires regular “flushing” to reduce an unwieldy build-up of fluids. The next step will likely be dialysis.
In her one lung, she also has chronic Valley Fever, a fungal infection that primarily affects people with compromised immune systems. A severe allergy to the only treatment available means she will probably live with this for the rest of her life as well.
One of the most dangerous side effects of the anti-rejection drugs is the damage to her immune system that leaves her wide open to infection; she’s been hospitalized for pneumonia six times this year alone.
Despite the daily struggle, Heather is still fighting. And today she faces a new battle, one that we can't win without your help: a life threatening infection that requires immediate surgery.
The Current Situation
It began as a dental problem – tooth and root rot has been a constant, worsening condition post-transplant, and she’s lost several teeth already as they slowly crumble in her mouth. An infection that would be curable with a round of antibiotics for most people, has since moved from her teeth to her jaw bone where it spread into her sinuses, and is now moving toward her brain. This is not a manageable situation. Heather needs surgery immediately before the infection takes her life.
I’m Heather’s brother, Scott. We are launching this campaign for my sister because our family has exhausted our resources and we’re simply out of options to help her. Our parents are in their 70s. They have both come out of retirement to work full-time hourly jobs and are doing what they can. I’m Heather’s only sibling. My wife and I give what we have to support her and my parents, but we can’t come up with this kind of money before Heather runs out of time.
Heather’s only income is a monthly disability check. Her only source of healthcare comes from Medicaid. And unfortunately, virtually none of what she needs is covered. Many people have asked why this isn't covered, something we’ve asked ourselves many times. Because according to Medicaid, this is a dental need, a problem of dental origin. For this reason, they will only reimburse her a small percentage of the cost. We’ve fought with them, appealed the decision, but that has so far yielded no results. We can’t keep hoping they’ll change their mind someday. Someday will be too late.
Heather works hard balancing her meds, her blood sugar, her pacemaker, blood pressure, failing eyesight, regular biopsies, checkups, etc., while still being a mother to her three children. She isn’t physically able to help herself and, without a husband in the picture, it’s just her and the kids doing what they can to get by.
We’re doing our best here.
But we can’t do it without you.
Why We’re Coming to You
Heather needs the money up front to secure a surgery date. Unfortunately that means we can’t do anything until all the funds are in hand. She has a wonderful surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona who has already generously provided a stop-gap procedure, free of charge, to buy us some time. But that time is running out. And the longer we wait, the closer Heather comes to a deadly brain infection. Once that happens, there’s nothing more we can do.
$45,109. – Procedure and associated costs (estimate from doc below)
- 2,500. – Portion covered by Medicaid
+ 3,409. – Estimated GoFundMe fees & payment processing costs
$46,018. – Our GOAL to save Heather
How to Help Save Heather
We’ve always believed there wasn’t a problem we couldn’t handle as a family, and it has been difficult for us to admit that we need help. With hope for a solution quickly fading, we come to you out of desperation. After doing what we can to keep her with us this long, we have nothing left. Our only chance is the appeal we’re making to you, to friends and family who care about her, and to the larger community.
Heather’s battle will continue for the rest of her life. But after everything she’s been through, after all the sacrifices she’s made to be here now, we can’t just let her go from what is essentially a tooth infection. She’s lived with her new heart for 12 years, and her family isn’t about to give up on her.
If you’d like to #HelpSaveHeather – please contribute in any way you can. We sincerely appreciate your support.
With immeasurable gratitude,
Scott, Amy, Mom & Dad
A little housekeeping as well... GoFundMe wants me to let you guys know that the funds will be released to Heather's parents . They have power of attorney and manage a lot of the finances and logistics for Heather. Full disclosure and all. You guys have been amazingly generous here, and we want to be fully transparent about how this is being handled.
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