On Saturday, January 4th I had my first shoot of 2014. Sunday afternoon I posted this image and the below text to my personal and photography page on Facebook.
“This image is from my first shoot of 2014 that I did yesterday.
This photo is not simply about a beautiful face and body. There is much more to this image than that….
This was about helping a beautiful mother of 3 boys check one more thing off of her list to do in her life….
You see, the woman in this photo is in need of another heart surgery by the end of March or face the fact that she may already be in heart failure…
I met Heather for the first time a couple months ago. She and Jen had started talking here on Facebook as Heather was trying to help Jen while she struggled with breastfeeding our daughter, Lars. Heather did this completely unsolicited. She just took an interest in helping another mother succeed at something that Jen was having issues with.
She reached out to me in December about what my rates for a shoot would be. When I talked to Jen about the shoot, she directed me to this link:
Healthy Heart for Heather
I immediately knew I wasn’t able to take her money. Her money needed to be saved for this potentially life saving surgery. Having lost my father at the age of 9 from cancer and recently losing my uncle due to heart failure, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to actually do something meaningful for someone else with my photography. I spend so much time and energy working with some amazing talent to create beautiful images that hundreds of you like and comment on with every post. So I hope that every last one of you take the time to read this long post…
Unfortunately, she currently does not have insurance. The hospital is willing to discount the cost of the surgery, the surgeon that will be performing the surgery is paying for 23% of it out of his own pocket. But there are still thousands of dollars that she needs to raise to be able to afford this surgery…
I don’t ask a lot of my fan base. I’ve always appreciated the comments, likes and shares on every image I have shared with you. But now, I am asking you to do more (if you can) and reach into your pocket and help Heather raise enough money to be able to have this surgery…..
If not for her, at least for her three boys…”
I spent most of today thinking about writing this blog post. Heather and I talked a couple of times over the course of last night by text. She was at work and was receiving calls and messages from friends and family that help maintain the donation link. In a very short amount of time, my original posts had been shared by friends, family, fans of my work, my peers and even complete strangers. Donations were being made, Heather’s story was being shared.
I asked Heather to give me more details, in her own words, about her heart condition. Heather has been diagnosed with valve prolapse along with Supraventricular Tachycardia and Atrial Tachycardia. She has had 2 surgeries already to try and correct the problem. Towards the end of the pregnancy with her third son, her heart and her health took a turn for the worse. This is what Heather shared with me in her own words:
“Im going to start from the beginning. My teen years i always had chest pains and the doctors would always pin my pains on heart burn or pneumonia. After 2 kids and the age of 22 i was having more and more chest pains,severe weight loss, syncope,palpitations i went to see a doctor who referred me to a cardio. After a 72 hour holter monitor and 2 days after returning it i was told i have a condition called svt av node reentry. After many tries at different meds my only option left was catheter ablation. So i went on july 16th and had my heart ablated. Some .complications arose during the procedure and was stopped. 6 hours later laying on flat on my back and feeling the first literally heart burn ever i was sent home. 3 months later i was found to have a prolapsed triscupid vavle and recurring svt av node reentry and ectopic atrial tachycardia. I was scheduled for a stereotaxis ablation november 30th i went in and was under for 8 hours and recovery was 6 hours on my back flat waking up was tramatizing. I stayed in the hospital for 2 days and went home to.finish recovery my sister.left while i.was in.the hospital. 2 months later i.found out i was pregnant. After being told to terminate due to my heart i gave birth 3 weeks early after beginning stages of heart failure to a healthy boy number 3. I was doing well.for months and then the chest pains started up again and a night of having syncope and busting my face a severe concussion I went to my cardio and after test results sent me.back.to.the surgeon who said a need an A Tach ablation done again. I have went from weighing 150lbs to 133lbs in one month, constant syncope, pre syncope, fatigue, chest pains, bruising easily im told i need.my surgery due.to.my heart wearing hard. I can eventually go.into heart failure. I now have no.insurance till march and may not be able to even afford.my deductible. And to my doctor by march i can be already in stages of.heart failure.”
Recently her surgeon offered to foot part of the bill to make sure that Heather receives the surgery she needs to live. But the remaining cost is still a staggering amount totaling well over $15,000 out of pocket. Even with the Affordable Health Care Act in place, Heather would still be struggling financially to afford the health care coverage and the large deductible that comes along with it.
As we shot on Saturday, we talked about her health, her boys and the things she still wants to do with her life. Never once did the conversation feel like there was a cloud of dread hanging in the air. Heather laughed and smiled the entire time, even as she spoke of some very trying and scary moments. She has even made a bucket list of the things she wants to do still. As I read the list she sent me, I was amazed at the simplicity of some of the things she wants to accomplish. Some of the items on her list are things that many of us just simple associate with our normal day to day lives. Her list is as follows:
- Take my kids to Disney
- Go to the zoo with my kids
- Take the kids to the beach and surf one more time
- Camp in the backyard with my kids
- Learn to drive a standard
- Go to a fashion show
- Walk a suspended bridge
- Go off roading
- Do a classic car pin-up shoot
- Get my side tattooed
- Get sister tattoos
- Hike a mountain
- Go snorkeling
- Have one of my paintings displayed
- Fly a plane
- Ride in a helicopter
- Have a spa day
- Sail a boat
- Tour a ghost town
- Plant a tree and carve my kids and my name in it
- Go horseback riding on trails
- Visit a waterfall and stand under it
- See a ballet
- Watch a play
- Attend a masquerade
- Capture special moments of my kids
- Die happy
If you are able to donate any amount, you can do so here. If you are unable to donate, please feel free to share her story with others. Anything any of you can do to help raise money for Heather’s surgery or cross an item off her list, is greatly appreciated.