GUEST COMMENTARY

By Jill Gambon
Rockland, Mass.

School lockers are a lot different from when I was a kid. You should see my daughter Eva’s.

It’s absolutely packed with decorations. There’s even a tiny chandelier hanging inside it. It’s like this mini world. When you open it, you feel like angels are going to start singing.

Eva started middle school this year. She and her fifth-grade classmates are in a new building. The move would be a big adjustment for any kid, but it especially is for her. Eva was born with a serious medical condition that affected the development of her heart. She’s had five open heart surgeries and now has a pacemaker.

Eva might be smaller than most of her classmates, but she’s doing her best to live the normal life of a 10-year-old. She stays after school three days a week for drama. She also takes ballet classes at a studio near Rockland, where we live with my husband, Greg, and Eva’s little sister, Aislin. She keeps the family busy.

This holiday season Eva is dancing in two productions of The Nutcracker, one at her local dance studio, and one in Boston. It’s a lot of work, and sometimes when she’s feeling tired, she doesn’t want to go. But afterward she’s like, “You better make me do this again next year. I love this! I can’t believe I said no.”

Since it’s the holidays, people are asking me what Eva wants for Christmas. She doesn’t need toys or anything like that, I tell them. She needs a chance at life.

After the holidays, Eva is starting a trial drug. It could mess with her a little bit, so I didn’t want to start it when she has so much going on. It’s a new medication that’s approved for adults, but not for children. It’s supposed to make her heart work more efficiently. That’s the hope, anyway. If all goes well, it won’t help just her, but thousands of kids like her.

Without the American Heart Association, a drug like this might not even exist. There are so many more kids nowadays who are living into adulthood with congenital heart defects. They need an organization like the AHA to fund medical researchers who are just beginning to understand these patients.

It seems there’s a new breakthrough every year that has helped my daughter. She’s been the first in line to try new drugs. She’s been the first in line to undergo new procedures. She’s been the first for a lot of things, and none of it would have been possible without funding.

I hope there are more firsts. Who knows, maybe one day Eva will be the first patient to grow a working heart from her own tissue. We’re not there yet, but the next lifesaving breakthrough could be just around the corner.

It’s awesome when I hear about the generosity of American Heart Association donors. They’re really helping people survive heart disease. It’s amazing to think that they’re taking the time to think about how this disease affects people like Eva. It’s a wonderful holiday gift.

I hope that Eva’s story will inspire you and others to contribute today knowing that your gift will help us fund research.

With a gift of $5,000 or more, you will join our philanthropic giving Cor Vitae Society, and receive 2 tickets to the Boston Heart & Stroke Ball on May 5, 2018.

Thank you for your generosity, and we hope to see you on May 5!