Husband and father Martin Vece has served the community for decades as a performer and teacher. We asked Marty how his wife and three daughters help him to cope with the emotional, physical and financial challenges of life on the transplant waiting list.
In November of 2014, I was informed by my doctors at UCLA that I would need a heart transplant. Because of an impending lung issue, I would first have to go through open heart surgery for an LVAD. In December of 2014, I had to immediately relocate my entire family from Las Vegas to Los Angeles as I recovered from the procedure. I knew in that moment that we were in some incredibly deep financial trouble.
I had to remain in Los Angeles for a minimum of sixth months after the LVAD surgery. My doctors required me to have a caretaker for that entire period. We asked several members of our family to stay with me in LA, but everyone we asked was not able to do it. There was no choice but for my wife and kids to come with me.
When I was in the hospital getting the LVAD surgery, it was my wife who, over a period of three days, packed up all our things, rented a U-Haul truck, found housing for us in LA, took our girls out of school and registered them in LA, and found people to help her move everything we needed into an apartment. She truly was Superwoman. We were finally able to move back to Las Vegas in June of 2015.
Because Las Vegas does not have its own transplant facility, when I get ‘the call’ for a heart transplant, I will have to go on a leave of absence from work and relocate to Los Angeles again to be near UCLA for roughly six months while I recover from the surgery. I am currently fundraising to cover my medical and related expenses, including uninsured doctor’s bills and medication costs that come in monthly. With HelpHOPELive fundraising helping me to pay for medical and related costs, it frees up money to help with general bills and cost-of-living expenses so I can take care of my wife and family.
Chronic health issues have created multiple challenges for me and my family. The stress has been ridiculous as I cope with my health issues and my wife tries to raise three young girls and support me at the same time. The financial stress of my illness has been significant. It’s continuous, because even after the transplant my uninsured medical expenses will continue to stack up. I will have to continue to fundraise for my entire life.
With a little bit of my energy and time, I coordinate all of my fundraising activities on my own. My wife is busy taking care of the girls, taking care of me and running the household. It can be surprising when extended family members and friends don’t step up to help with fundraising. Since my heart issues have taken a turn for the worse, I have learned a lot about who in your life really sticks by you through the tough times and who abandons you.
HelpHOPELive has been a godsend. Before I started working with HelpHOPELive, I didn’t have a clue about how to conduct grassroots fundraising. I have become educated very quickly with the guidance I have received from HelpHOPELive. It really helps that the organization allows me to fundraise through a 501(c)(3). It gives your illness some credibility: HelpHOPELive verifies medical need, and I think people feel a little safer donating money with assurance that the cause is legitimate.
I find it to be a great challenge to remain positive while on the transplant waiting list. For some of us, it is a really long wait, and it becomes challenging when you are dealing with medical issues day in and day out. I honestly don’t know where I would be without my family. They keep me grounded and focused on living for each and every day. But it has not been easy. I seem to weave in and out of periodic states of depression. During those times, I just keep saying to myself that I’m lucky to be alive. Without modern technology, I would have been gone a long time ago. I try to look at what I have and what I am grateful for, not what I’m missing. Positive thinking is crucial to get you through those dark periods.
My family members, close friends and co-workers provide a strong emotional support system for me. My relationship with my wife and three daughters is incredible. They have played a tremendous role in my health journey in that they have been there with me every step of the way. I don’t know if I could get through each day dealing with all of my medical issues without them at my side.
My two oldest daughters are nine and eight years old, and they understand my medical condition and limitations very well. They help me with little things like bending over and picking things up for me, helping me carry things, or getting something for me because I’m out of breath. These little acts of assistance help me physically get through each day. My girls are great because they know that I can’t play soccer with them, roughhouse, or do anything else on that physical level, so instead, we take advantage of other ways to spend quality time together. We do homework together, play board games, watch TV and go for slow walks together.
The best part about my family is our love for each other. We all support one another. No matter what is going on, there is always someone to lean on. My advice to a new father is, don’t think you can be selfish. To be a good father, you have to be willing to make sacrifices for your children. When I was little, my mother used to say, “I go without so you can have [what you need]. I would take the food out of my own mouth to put it in yours.” My mother had a great impact on me and now that I am a father, I truly understand what she meant.
After transplant, I look forward to getting out of the house. I want to run and run and run and run. I can’t wait to do physical activities again. I want to play sports and do musical theater and chase my kids around for hours. I want to go into the ocean and splash around with my family. I want to take dance classes with my girls. My girls and my family are my world. It’s hard to imagine, now, that I had a life before they arrived.
Learn more about Marty and his family or donate in his honor at helphopelive.org. Help us celebrate strong fathers this month! Do you know a father who is living with a challenging chronic health condition? Submit his name to HelpHOPELive and he could be featured in our next Blog post!