Jennifer Shih had always dreamed of becoming a doctor, specifically a pediatrician. After years of rigorous study and preparation she was thrilled to land a prestigious pediatric cardiology fellowship in Cincinnati. In an ironic turn of events, just a few months into her fellowship, Jennifer experienced life threatening heart problems herself.
Jennifer’s heart condition, caused by an extremely rare disease called Giant Cell Myocarditis came on very suddenly. The only hope was a heart transplant and she was placed at the highest priority level. Miraculously a donor match was found and in less than two weeks from her diagnosis she received a new heart.
After her transplant on September 12th, 2004, Jennifer realized that her journey was far from over. While transplantation gives a new lease on life, the risk of rejection is high and lifelong continued treatment is necessary. In fact Jennifer was hospitalized twice after the transplant. Now after a year and a half of treatment, Jennifer’s prognosis is good. However because of her low immune system can no longer pursue her medical career as originally planned.
When I spoke with Jennifer one thing was certainly clear – her excitement about life is strong and she is hopeful for her future. She’s a positive young woman who’s now helping others who are in need of organ transplants.
Have a Heart Benefit
When Jennifer’s friends heard about her desperate need of a transplant, they decided to do something to help. Because of the sudden nature of Jennifer’s illness the fundraiser had to be put together pretty quickly. That’s when the Have a Heart Benefit was born.
Their circle of friends liked to go to clubs and concerts so they decided that a benefit concert would be a great idea. They advertised the event through flyers, email and calling everyone they knew.
On the night of the concert attendees purchased wristbands at the door as their entry tickets. Many people added extra donations above the cover charge too. A silent auction was also held to raise more money. By the end of the night about $17,000 had been raised to help Jennifer!
In 2005 another Have a Heart benefit was planned, this time to benefit other organ transplant patients and Hurricane Katrina victims. This time they exceeded their expectations, raising even more money with the event and silent auction.
Have a Heart Benefit 2005 organizers Kerri Golding, Jennifer Shih and Michelle Gianini
Partnering with a Non Profit Organization
The National Transplant Assistance Fund (NTAF) helped administer the funds raised and provide a tax deductive contribution option for donors. The NTAF is a registered charity that helps families and communities to raise money to cover uninsured medical expenses related to transplantation and catastrophic injury.
Jennifer recommends partnering with an existing non profit organization if at all possible. This provides a measure of accountability, trust and of course the tax deductive benefit for people who donate.
Lifelong Financial Impact
One of the impacts of transplantation that the general public may not be aware of is the high cost, not only of the surgery itself, but of the continued care required for transplant patients. After surgery patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life. These medications can run thousands of dollars each month.
Jennifer is currently on disability, which barely covers her monthly medical expenses. Though she is now financially stable and hopes to return to work at some time in the future, she knows that many transplant survivors are not so lucky.
Jennifer hopes to continue the Have a Heart Benefit to help other people in need of financial assistance because of transplantation and other major medical illnesses.
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