Tag Archives: children

Voices of Hope: “There Is Always Someone To Lean On”

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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

Marty with his family at UCLA


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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

Marty begins walking after the LVAD surgery

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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

An update on Marty’s HelpHOPELive page explains financial burdens

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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

HelpHOPELive lends credibility to Marty’s fundraising efforts

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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

Marty’s wife and daughters are a strong source of support

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.

Martin Vece HelpHOPELive heart transplant

Marty wants to run, play sports and chase his kids around after transplant


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!

Voices Of Hope: It’s Been One Year Since My Heart Transplant

Avid cyclist Bill Soloway was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the 1990s. The debilitating effects of the condition forced him to cut back on his favorite hobbies and his career as a skilled craftsman. Exactly one year ago, Bill received a lifesaving heart transplant. Here are Bill’s thoughts on fundraising with HelpHOPELive and finding your new normal after transplant.

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill got a heart transplant one year ago today


How is your relationship with your family?


I have a very supportive fiancée, Kathy; my 86-year-old father, John; and my 23-year-old daughter, Amanda. They have been with me every step of the way. I am also very blessed to be surrounded by many close friends with whom I have ridden my bicycle over the years. I consider them my second family.

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill says family and friends support him “every step of the way”


How has your family played a role in your health journey?


Kathy has done most of the heavy lifting along with my cycling friends. They accompanied me to my medical appointments and made sure I had everything that I needed. They would stop over and spend time with me. My father lives over an hour away so we video chatted a lot when I was in the hospital, and Amanda would tag along when she could to offer support.

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill’s fiancee and friends have “done most of the heavy lifting”


Is your community helping you to fundraise?


A very close friend of mine, Dennis Brown, along with a handful of other friends lead the charge when it comes to fundraising. I am currently fundraising for the costly medications and other post-transplant medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance.

I have had two successful fundraisers so far: Spin For Soloway, a spin-a-thon held at a gym in which I am an indoor cycling instructor; and Pizza For A Purpose, held at a favorite local restaurant where a percentage of food sales were donated to my campaign.

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How do you feel about fundraising with HelpHOPELive?


HelpHOPELive has been very supportive in helping me achieve my fundraising goals. Everyone who I have come into contact with has taken the time to get to know me and understand my fundraising needs. They have provided fundraising ideas and marketing materials for my events, and they have also provided new ideas to help promote my cause.

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill says HelpHOPELive has helped him achieve his fundraising goals

After considering several online fundraising sites, HelpHOPELive was the only one I connected with. A coordinator spoke with me and Kathy on the phone at great length about all of the resources available and how to best use certain features on the HelpHOPELive website. I felt that my Fundraising Coordinator took a personal interest in me, and I didn’t get that with any of the other fundraising platforms that I looked into. HelpHOPELive staff have even come out to support me at one of my events since their offices are very close to my area! What an awesome surprise!


What is the biggest change to your life since your transplant?


New life, new set of rules! Dealing with medications and side effects has been a challenge, and so has being immunosuppressed. Having a new heart that is getting used to this body and allowing my body to get used to the heart is challenging as well. I will be celebrating this transplant “first birthday” with my family and all my friends with a big barbecue!

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill says his life post-transplant comes with a “new set of rules”


Is it challenging to manage a chronic health condition while being a father?


I think it’s a challenge to manage a chronic health condition or transplant, period! Being a father just adds more stress because you have to worry about more than just yourself.


What’s the best part about being a dad?


The best part is watching your kids grow up and sharing life experiences with them. You get to share in their successes and their struggles. They grow up quick! My advice to new dads is to take lots of pictures and spend lots of time doing things you like to do together as they grow up or you’ll have no memories to talk about when they get older. Plus, you’ll have a lot of good stories and adventures to tell your grandkids about their parents!

Bill Soloway HelpHOPELive

Bill tells dads to “take lots of pictures” and prioritize time with kids


Check in on Bill’s life after transplant at helphopelive.org. If you want to learn more about family support and fundraising possibilities before and after a lifesaving transplant, click or tap the Follow button to get emailed when we release new Blog posts. 

Five Myths About Caregiving

“The word ‘caregiver’ often conjures up the image of someone who stands next to a bed distributing pills or wiping a brow. In reality, a caregiver takes on numerous roles.  For me, becoming a caregiver after my husband’s diagnosis has meant taking on the responsibility of all the household tasks, jobs that my husband and I used to divide up and share. Almost every single task is now done by me, from financial planning and home repairs to car maintenance and the bulk of parenting.

caregiving

“Almost every single task is now done by me”

Here’s an example of how our lives look different now. Braden and I used to enjoy working outside in the yard together. He would take on the larger, heavier jobs such as trimming weeds, mowing and using the snow blower.  Now, all of that falls on me. Being a caregiver has also made me the ‘practice coach’ for our children as they participate in sports, something Braden enjoyed doing before the days of oxygen tanks when he could run and move around easily. Many times I feel like a single parent, taking on things I never thought I would have to do by myself.

single parent

“Many times I feel like a single parent”

With that in mind, I would like to share some of the misinformation I’ve dealt with as a caregiver. Statistics are from this source.


Myth 1: Caregivers are middle-aged mothers, wives and daughters.


Although I fall into this category, statistics show that today about 40% of caregivers are men, and many caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 34.

caregiver

40% of caregivers are men, many between 18 and 34


Myth 2: Caregiving is done in addition to someone’s full-time job.


In reality, about a third of caregivers quit their jobs or reduce their hours in order to care for a loved one. In many cases, caregiving becomes the person’s full-time job and their career is put on hold.

job stress

A third of caregivers reduce their hours or leave their jobs entirely


Myth 3: People already know how difficult caregiving can be.


Many caregivers suffer in silence and do not ask for help. This is another category I fall into at times. People who help take care of a loved one often have generous or strong personalities and either do not like to or do not know how to ask for help.

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“People are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking”

The problem with not reaching out is that it creates a deficit of support: often other people are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking or the stress the caregiver is under. Which leads to this fourth myth…


Myth 4: Caregivers should always be positive and shouldn’t complain.


There is a fine balance for me between sharing personal details to keep people informed and maintaining privacy.  Our family tries to maintain a positive outlook, so talking openly about the illness and related problems was a challenge until we learned several key things.

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Are caregivers allowed to express their frustrations and difficulties?

First, we are not alone in our experience; most people have been touched by something similar. Second, dealing with these issues has enriched our lives. Being able to share our challenges provides us the chance to not only help others but to help ourselves, too. The updates we share on Braden’s HelpHOPELive campaign page are a wonderful opportunity to keep our family and friends informed and discuss caregiving as well as Braden’s journey towards transplantation.


Myth 5: Caregiving is a thankless job.


Being a caregiver is stressful and often discouraging, and it can be overwhelming.  But caregiving is also very rewarding at times.  Some caregivers experience an emotional and spiritual sense of fulfillment. Taking care of someone you love provides opportunities to grow closer and form bonds with each other and other members of your family or support network.

Understanding and dispelling these caregiving myths may help us to seek assistance, gain support and lessen some of the stress we encounter as we help take care of someone we love.”

Braden Richards HelpHOPELive

Beth is the wife and caregiver of HelpHOPELive client Braden Richards


Beth is the wife and caregiver of Braden Richards, who is fighting a rare autoimmune disorder. Braden and Beth are fundraising with HelpHOPELive for the out-of-pocket costs associated with a lifesaving lung transplant.

In Times Of Crisis, Love Brings Us Together

These quotes from individuals and families from all walks of life show just how important love and support can be as you strive to meet the challenges before you.

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Love Keeps Us Strong…


“For the love of our son, Nick, we want to be here for him and his able-bodied brother for as long as possible. That’s what keeps us strong and driven.”

Nick and mom for love quotes post

-Judy, mother of Nick Rouse (injured in 2008)


Love Helps Us Thrive…


“We wouldn’t be thriving as well as we are without love. Love in its many forms is what keeps us pushing forward.”

-Kristen and Jeff Sachs (injured in 2013)


Love Keeps Us Going…


“I believe love plays a big role in health. It is family and friends that keep you going and your spouse or partner and kids that give you the fight to carry on and get a normal life back. #NeverRetreatNeverSurrender”

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Michael Carns (fighting MS)


Love Gives Us Hope…


“Love from family or friends gives a person the will to keep pushing and the hope of a better outcome. If everyday struggles become overwhelming, the distraction of love can soothe the soul.

Love is also a powerful tool. While in the Shepherd Center for two months with my son, I saw people who didn’t have any friends or family to support them, whether it was someone to watch a movie with or someone to give them homemade food or a silly gift. Those people did not thrive in recovery, did not smile or laugh, and did not have the desire to get up and do therapy. There was an employee at the Shepherd Center who gave every person and family member a hug, every single day. She knew the power of love.”

-Lori, mother of John LeMoine (injured in 2014)


Love Keeps Us Healthy…


“Love and the time we spend with each other and people who are special to us has been at the center of Suria’s recovery and it has kept us both healthier. There are times when one of us may not feel well, but after a few laughs, it’s like you’ve been given a special pill that can help fix what ails you. Just the act of loving another can make you love yourself more. You’ll find you start taking extra steps to take care of yourself just to keep that good feeling going.”

-Kirby and Suria Nordin (injured in 2014)


Love Motivates Us…


“On this difficult road to recovery, the love God has for me and the love I have for my family is the source of my strength. It is love that gives me the will to work harder than I thought I could and to keep going when so often I’ve wanted to surrender.”

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Joe Piscitelli (injured in 2014)


Our goal is to help people fundraise within their own communities for their medical and related expenses. It’s true that fundraising can help you secure tangible resources, like medication or physical therapy sessions, that improve your health and quality of life. But fundraising isn’t just about money: fundraising gives your friends and family members the opportunity to lift you up and offer you the emotional support that nourishes you as you face your medical burdens.

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Do you know someone who is struggling with medical expenses and is in need of financial and emotional support? Consider helping him or her to launch a fundraising campaign to ease the burden.

Voices Of Hope: We Stayed Together After A Catastrophic Injury

Katie started dating Richard Travia when they were freshmen at Villanova University. Two years after graduation, Richard became paralyzed from the chest down after a diving accident at the beach. Katie and Richard stayed together after the injury and, today, they are happily married with two young children.

Richard and Katie Travia HelpHOPELive

Katie and Richard with their two youngsters in 2014


Did the injury impact your relationship?


Katie: The early stages were challenging, scary and overwhelming. Richard’s injury was a big obstacle on our path together, but we didn’t let it stop us from continuing with our goals and future. Today, there are still limitations to what we can do as a couple. For instance, we haven’t traveled to Europe together since his injury because we are fearful of the accessibility challenges; we can’t do some outdoor activities together that we used to enjoy; but we find enjoyment and travel opportunities elsewhere. The injury has brought us challenges, but our relationship is stronger than ever.


Today, how does love play a role in your daily life?


Richard is my best friend and soulmate. We met and started dating when we were young, but we have grown and gone through so much together. I can’t imagine going through a day without talking to him 10 times. We are always eager to see each other every evening after work. Aside from the fact that he can’t stand on his own anymore, you would barely know that the injury had occurred. He is always positive, patient and logical. He keeps me in check.

Katie Richard Travia HelpHOPELive engagement

Katie calls Richard her “best friend and soulmate”

Each day has its own challenges, but we have built an amazing family together with two beautiful children and an awesome dog. Our love for each other and our love for our family is overwhelming to us. Sometimes, amidst the craziness at home, we will both look at each other and smile and say, “Look how lucky we are.”


How did Richard propose to you?


He was amazingly determined to keep with tradition: for months he practiced getting down on one knee during physical therapy. We got engaged on Christmas in 2007 and got married in October of 2008 at my church in New Jersey. Richard practiced standing in physical therapy, and with the help of two friends and a walker, he stood when I walked down the aisle and when we said our vows.

Richard and Katie Travia wedding

Richard pursed physical therapy to be able to stand for his wedding vows


What advice would you give to someone else trying to hold onto their relationship after injury?


Keeping a positive mindset and remembering that things won’t always go as planned is the best way to remain sane. Surround yourself with positive people and things that make you happy. Find great support groups online or in your community and talk to people going through a similar situation.


How does your family and community provide support?


Being in a wheelchair for 10 years has its challenges, both physical and psychological. Richard has been lucky, because everyone surrounded him when he was injured and they stuck with him. He was able to move on with the life that he wanted to have because of that support. Our immediate family and friends have been amazing to us over the years, whether by modifying their homes to accommodate Richard’s needs or helping to lift Richard into a restaurant, home or location for a social outing.

HelpHOPELive friends fundraising

Friends and family “stuck with him” when Richard was injured

Another major source of support was the Villanova community. We graduated from Villanova together but we have received support from people we didn’t even graduate with. From getting people together to watch the game at home with Richard to VIP tickets to basketball games, our Villanova family has been so amazingly supportive. Now, Richard gives back to that community through his involvement with the Villanova Alumni Senate and other activities on campus.


Did that support translate into fundraising success?


Within the first two years after Richard’s injury, we did a great deal of fundraising with HelpHOPELive [pictured below], including a 5K Walk/Run, open bar nights and small events at schools in our area. The support was overwhelming. We were able to raise over $200,000, which has helped us tremendously. We are still relying on those funds now a decade later to cover medical expenses.

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One of our largest purchases was an accessible van for Richard. We were also able to cover the cost of home exercise equipment, prescriptions, ramps and other purchases that helped to make our living situation more accessible for him. The expenses associated with paralysis never go away and insurance covers very little, so the fundraising we did early on has provided some comfort for us over the years.


What is the thing you love most about your relationship?


Richard and I don’t have the best luck, but through all the obstacles over the years, we have still accomplished all that we wanted to accomplish, and we have done it together, as a team.


Did you find love before or after a life-changing injury or illness? Share your story with us in the comments section below and you could be selected to participate in an interview!

In The News: Mom Recovers From Five-Organ Transplant

Looking at family pictures, you might assume that Melinda Nelson is a typical wife and mother of three. Beneath the surface, her story is anything but ordinary. In September, Melinda underwent a life-changing five-organ transplant to combat a rare illness that made it impossible for her to eat or drink without the assistance of a feeding tube.

Melinda Nelson transplant HelpHOPELive

Melinda is a wife and mother of three.

Melinda was born with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIP). The disorder lead to inefficient intestinal contractions, which made ordinary digestion and nutrition impossible for her body to maintain. By age 38, she was unable to draw any nutrition from food orally, and nightly intravenous treatments became her sole source of nutrition.

CIP was breaking down her health and diminishing her body’s ability to fight back. Melinda knew she would need a major breakthrough to remain in the lives of her “three babes,” 11-year-old Chad, 7-year-old Grace, and 6-year-old Hannah. A high-risk multi-visceral transplant – of the liver, stomach, intestine and pancreas – became her only hope.

Melinda had been fundraising with HelpHOPELive for less than a year when she got the call for her transplant. Thanks to the donations made in her honor, Melinda was able to afford the 1,821-mile journey from her hometown in Idaho to a specialized transplant center in Indiana where she received the gift of life.

Melinda Nelson after transplant HelpHOPELive

Fundraising enabled Melinda to relocate for a lifesaving transplant.

“I can’t even imagine giving a gift like that, because that donor didn’t just give me a second chance, he gave my kids their mom,” said Melinda in an interview with KTVB 7. Melinda will spend the holidays recovering from the procedure and celebrating the possibility of a brighter and healthier future.

(Meridian mom recovering after five-organ transplant)