Heart-transplant patient a ‘Community Chest Champion’

Duane Hicks

Sue Martin is a local champion. She fought for her life and won.
Thanks to modern medicine, a new heart, the support of family and friends, many prayers, and the help of the Fort Frances “Community Chest,” Martin is now back on her feet and a productive member of society, working full-time at Community Living Fort Frances and District as an outcome support facilitator with developmentally-handicapped adults.
Martin’s ordeal began in 2004 when she started becoming very tired, weak, and bloated. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy—a disease where the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn’t work as well as it should.
After an assessment process in Ottawa, Martin was told she was a candidate for a heart transplant.
Martin was not able to work while she waited for a year-and-a-half for a new heart. She missed out on one when inclement weather prevented her from going to Ottawa while a second was diseased.
Then a fateful third call came on Feb. 20, 2006.
Martin was picked up at the airport in Fort Frances by Medi-vac and flown to Ottawa, where a cab was waiting to take her to hospital for her heart transplant.
She remained at the Ottawa Heart Institute for three weeks.
Martin remembers when she was in the hospital and the nurse let her listen to her new heart through a stethoscope—a sound she still can’t describe in words.
She remained in Ottawa for another 11 weeks, staying in the residence apartment building so she continually could go back and forth to the hospital for physiotherapy, blood work, and X-rays.
It took her another year-and-a-half to recover from the heart transplant to the point where she could work again.
Martin is single, and her son, Jason, moved home to be with her in 2004. He went with her to Ottawa when the doctor said she would need a personal attendant the entire time she was there.
“I was really scared,” Martin recalled. “[But] Jason was there by my side, helping me emotionally, and sharing my journey.
“He helped with anything I needed,” she added. “I couldn’t drive or lift anything, and could not have managed on my own.”
Martin said she’s fortunate she lives in a country that covers the cost of health care and offers a travel grant. However, there are some holes in the system.
For example, the travel grant only covers one night in a hotel, and doesn’t come close to covering the cost of a companion. It also takes eight-10 weeks for reimbursement.
For Martin and her son’s 14-week stay in Ottawa, there were many immediate and extra costs, such as the cost of an apartment. On top of that, these costs came after a year-and-a-half of not working, when extra money wasn’t possible to find, she noted.
Thankfully, that’s where the local “Community Chest” came in and helped them. It paid $3,000 rent for her apartment in Ottawa, plus food and cabs.
It also helped pay for her son’s travel expenses.
Even now, for the frequent ongoing check-ups, the “Community Chest” funds the money up front and then Martin repays them when she gets the travel grant back.
“Having the financial help of ‘Community Chest’ lessened a lot of stress,” she remarked. “It was one less thing to worry about for me and my family.
“They are wonderful at ‘Community Chest.’ They are very caring people,” she added. “They gave me the support I needed—not only financially but encouragement to see a brighter future.
“It made the journey that much easier.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to get my heart transplant. I couldn’t have afforded it,” Martin stressed.
“They gave me the gift of life.”
Martin is among quite a few “Community Chest Champions” in Rainy River District who have benefitted from the charity.
The “Community Chest,” in turn, is supported by district residents who pull together at fundraisers such as the “Acts of Kindness Benefit,” which will be held Friday, Dec. 3 starting at 6 p.m. at the Legion in Fort Frances.
The evening will feature a dinner, live entertainment, and an auction. Individuals and businesses are invited to donate gifts of time or service, which will be available for Christmas giving through purchase or auction.
Proceeds from this benefit will be donated to the “Community Chest” to help champions like Martin.
Martin, herself, will be donating baking as her “Act of Kindness” to help give back to the “Community Chest” as she wants others to receive the same level of support she did.
Anyone wanting to donate an “Act of Kindness” can contact Anthony Mason at the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce at 274-5773 or via e-mail at thefort@fortfrances-chamber.com