Tag Archives: depression

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!

How Creating Art Can Help Your Recovery

Art can be a career, a therapeutic exercise, a stress reliever, a way to connect with loved ones or a healthy dose of ‘me-time’ in the midst of a hectic schedule.

In this post, artists identify the health benefits of creativity and explain how you can get involved in art, starting today.

colored pencils


HelpHOPELive client Gail Foster is a professional painter who is fighting spinal cord damage. In this article, Foster explains how art can be used to explore and express intense emotions during a time of medical difficulty.

Foster is joined by Dr. Pooky Knightsmith, a freelance mental health advocate, guest speaker and poet, who delivers her insights on the connection between creative expression and personal wellbeing.

art health benefits Pooky Knightsmith Gail Foster

Artists Gail Foster and Pooky Knightsmith.


 

What are the mental and physical benefits of art?

Foster: Studies have shown that art and music can decrease anxiety, improve emotional balance and even heal your immune system. Art can be a way to commemorate milestones or celebrate your recovery journey.

Knightsmith: Sometimes poetry can be used to express things which are too difficult to say out loud. The act of taking difficult thoughts and feelings and turning them into a poem can feel quite cathartic and can allow us to move on from the things that hold us down.

Gail Foster Golden Wing art

‘Golden Wing’ by Gail Foster.


 

What if I am too busy to fit art into my schedule?

Knightsmith: Art doesn’t have to be something that takes up a lot of time.  I write a poem every day: it usually takes about ten minutes…it can be very beneficial just to have a few minutes each day which are truly your own. Many people find they enjoy those few minutes and can readily find them when they begin to look.

Foster: There are always distractions in our day-to-day lives: “I have dishes to do, I can’t do art right now…I have to finish running errands, I don’t have time to paint.” My best art happens when I make time for it, no matter how small a window of time I’m working with. Give me just ten minutes of that in an afternoon and, wow, that is a great day!

New Page Pooky Knightsmith poetry poem

The poem New Page by Pooky Knightsmith.


 

What are your tips for getting started?

Foster: Whether you are starting out for the first time or getting back into art after an injury or illness, one way to get motivated is to get a group of friends together. Getting together as a group, regardless of the location, can be a motivating factor, even if your chosen mediums are different! Hobby painters, screenwriters, poets, novelists, fine artists…it’s exciting to be together and focus on a common interest.

Wish In Flight Gail Foster

‘Wish In Flight’ by Gail Foster


 

Can art help with healing after an injury or illness?

Knightsmith: While it depends on the individual, many people find that writing, in its many forms, can help them to explore difficult thoughts and feelings that surround their injury or illness. It can help simply to put our thoughts to paper – sometimes the act of writing, whether it’s a list or a play or a story or a poem, can help us to crystallize our thoughts.

Any time I’m unsure about something, I explore it in writing. There are also lots of difficult thoughts and feelings that go hand-in-hand with being a caregiver. Some are positive, some are negative and some are simply tiring. Being able to explore these feelings in words or with art can be hugely therapeutic.

Not all artistic endeavors need to be about exploring difficulties!  Sometimes, art can simply be about celebrating positive moments in your life.

Pooky Knightsmith Recovery Shines poetry poem

The poem Recovery Shines by Pooky Knightsmith.


 

What if I’m not creative or artistic?

Foster: From time to time, everyone asks themselves, ‘Can I do this?’ or ‘Is this possible?’ This inner dialogue occurs over and over and over. It’s really important to find a way to remind yourself (maybe physically) to put those negative or stress-filled voices away. About 17 years ago, I put a blue piece of tape down on the threshold of my art studio. Every time I cross the blue tape, I remind myself to leave my concerns and insecurities at the door. Put yourself there! That’s all it takes! Don’t let your internal dialogue (or thoughts about your potential or lack of potential) drive the process. Be open to everything.

smiley face ball relax zen art

Find a way to remind yourself to let go of your worries before you begin creating art, says Foster.

Knightsmith: If you feel like you don’t have what it takes to create, I’d recommend starting with adult coloring. You end up creating something really beautiful in the end without needing to have an artistic bone in your body.

HelpHOPELive: Our client Kathe Neely is a lifelong doodler and the publisher of a coloring book for adults. She adds, “I think coloring is a fantastic way to test and explore your interest in a creative outlet.  It can be budget-friendly and is wonderfully mobile. I think that the ability to start with a design that is not overwhelming and allows to you see a result fairly quickly can be very satisfying and fulfilling. You would probably find that coloring that first tester page, whether it brings out further interest or not, was a nice mental break — even if it involved just a small portion of your day.  That is an immeasurable “benefit of creativity.” ”

Kathe Neely Late Night Doodles adult coloring grownup coloring book

Sample images from Kathe Neely’s adult coloring book.


 

Do I have to share my art with other people?

Knightsmith: Sharing your work is a personal choice that depends on what you’ve created and why.  Sometimes we create things just for ourselves to help us explore and manage. Sharing art and poetry can also feel like a very intimate thing and can, for that reason, be a great way to develop trusting, caring relationships.

Foster: Whether or not you plan to share your work, put your heart in it, and do it for yourself, not for anyone else. You can give your art away as gifts, share it with the public, share it with just a close circle or keep it for your eyes only. It’s up to you.

friends

Keep your work to yourself, or share it with others. The choice is yours.


If art has impacted your life, share your story with us on Facebook or on Twitter!