Judy Hart is like most other 14-year-old girls – she’s smart, she’s artistic, she blushes when you ask her about boys – but one thing sets Judy apart from other teenagers, she’s a fighter.
Hart, an 8th grade student at Pioneer Ridge Middle School, isn’t a boxer – though her stamina and determination might make her a formidable opponent in the ring – rather she has faced a debilitating disease and she refuses to stay down.
Hart suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, an illness she was diagnosed with as a newborn. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information CF is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. As mucus builds up in the breathing passages of the lungs and in the pancreas, the organ that helps to break down and absorb food, it results in life-threatening lung infections and serious digestion problems.
Mary Hart, Judy’s mother, who is also a nurse, says that Judy’s case is worse than most. She explained that her daughter has required multiple hospitalizations due to infections – most recently she was in the hospital for several weeks in November where her lung function dropped as low as 22 percent. She required another long hospitalization in December to fight a sinus infection. Every day the teenager must take 30 different pills just to stay alive. Going to a friend’s house to stay the night requires Judy to pack more than an overnight bag – she must think about breathing treatments, tube feedings and medications.
Judy has been fighting just to breathe since she was a baby, but all that may change soon because recently the teen was placed on the waiting list to receive a double lung transplant at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Mo, the nearest facility that performs this type of surgery.
“Right now I’m on the inactive list, whenever I’m ready they’ll switch me to active based on how
I’m doing – looking at oxygen levels, lung function, weight, those kinds of things,” Judy explained. “Normal lungs operate at 90 or 100 percent but I’m at around 30 percent right now.”
“It’s an option that’s available for her so that she can keep living,” added Mary.
To help pay for costs related to the transplant, Judy’s family has set up a Children’s Organ Transplant Association account. COTA assists patients with fundraising to meet transplant-related expenses for things not covered by insurance.
The team at St. Louis has guided the Hart family along, preparing them for Judy’s surgery. They made the family aware that they need to have about $60,000 available for costs not related to surgery – to cover things like living expenses and rent for an apartment in St. Louis while Judy recovers.
Teachers at Pioneer Ridge Middle School have decided to pitch in and lend a hand. On Gardner Citywide Garage Sale Day the staff plans to hold two sales – a bake sale and a garage sale – with all proceeds benefiting Judy Hart’s COTA fund.
Angela O’Kane, Media Specialist at PRMS, is helping to organize the sale. She said Judy’s teachers and fellow students are inspired by Hart and want to help her reach her fundraising goal.
For the past month or more, teachers have worked gathering items for the sale. They plan to offer the usual garage sale fare including furniture items, kitchen tables, desks and clothes ranging in size from babies, children to adult casual and adult dressy. They will also have home decor and household items. Most merchandise will be priced at $5 or less.
“We’re hoping that people will come out and support Judy by buying some garage sale items or some baked goods,” O’Kane said.
She said that the school has already done two other fundraisers, selling candy-grams at school for Valentine’s Day with the tagline: Have a Heart for Judy Hart; they also sold corn sacks that could be microwaved to be used as a heating pad or frozen to be used as an ice pack. To date the school’s fundraisers have contributed about $1,600 for Judy’s fund.
“She is the most amazing, gentle-hearted girl. She’s just so sweet,” O’Kane said. “She really appreciates the support, but she is such a humble person and she’s so touched by everything that people are doing to help her out.”
Judy takes the gravity of her situation in stride. She knows, just like in any surgery, there are risks involved, but to her the rewards outweigh the risks. “They can’t predict anything, they just do the lung transplant and hope all goes well – I hope all goes well,” she smiled. “It’s a scary thing to think about, it’s up to God where I go, how I’ll do.”
Heart said the best reward of all will be filling her new lungs with ease, something she’s thought about since she was small.
“I always wanted to feel what it feels like to breathe like a normal person,” she said looking ahead to her future.
“You’re the bravest person I know,” O’Kane told her, “the bravest.”
To date the Hart’s have raised $7,275 of the estimated $60,000 needed to cover expenses. To donate to her COTA account please visit: http://cota.donorpages.com/PatientOnlineDonation/COTAforJudyH/