Steven and Jill Walters of North Platte are struggling to finance a heart transplant for their seven-year-old daughter MaKenna.
MaKenna was born with a hole in her heart and suffered complications, but maintained good spirits despite everything, Jill Walters said.
“She’s her usual spunky self. It amazes the doctors that she has so much energy,” Walters said. “Looking from the outside, you wouldn’t guess there’s anything wrong.”
In July, MaKenna was hospitalized for a constricted aortic valve, which was “ballooned,” Jill said. MaKenna also had sinus surgery in November.
More serious trouble arrived March 3, when MaKenna passed out at home and was flown to the Omaha Children’s Hospital. Two days later, she underwent open-heart surgery to repair her aortic and tricuspid valves, followed by another surgery March 15 to replace her mitral valve.
“Those are the three main valves within the heart,” Jill Walters said.
A dual-chamber pacemaker was inserted and MaKenna went home.
Several days later, she was re-hospitalized for complications with her gallbladder. After she was sent home again, she soon returned with symptoms of a heart attack.
A heart catheterization found unknown tissue surrounding MaKenna’s heart, restricting it from pumping properly.
Walters said doctors aren’t sure exactly what is wrong with her daughter, but they believe she is suffering from restrictive cardio myopathy and will likely need a heart transplant.
“They have a hard time believing this is something that will ever get better (on its own),” Walters said.
MaKenna was released Monday from the hospital in stable condition but went right back Tuesday with extreme pain in her left arm that spread to her head and abdomen. Doctors say her heart rate and blood pressure are fluctuating rapidly.
Walters said doctors told her that MaKenna’s pain is likely a complication from her heart problems, but they aren’t sure exactly what’s wrong.
“We hadn’t even been gone for 12 hours until we were back in Omaha again,” Jill said.
As for now, the Walters family is waiting on genetic reports to see if MaKenna qualifies for the transplant.
MaKenna also wears hearing aids and suffers stomach ulcers.
“She’s had lots of health issues her whole life -- none of which seem to bother her,” Walters said.
Medical bills continue to rise and the Walters aren’t sure how much they owe, but “it’s been a pricy venture,” Jill Walters said.
Mentzer Oil held a benefit raffle Friday for to help raise funds for the medical bills.
Steven Walters, MaKenna’s father, is the fuel manager for Mentzer Oil.
Mentzer general manager Cindy Halligan said volunteers sold raffle tickets and collected donated merchandise for several weeks from many businesses and individuals.
A total of 51 items were donated to the benefit. Among them were a new Apple iPad and Husker football game tickets. Halligan said many people, both friends and strangers, showed their support.
“People really stepped up.” she said. “We got everything from cases of oil to restaurant gift certificates to loads of dirt -- you mention it. There was just a real variety.”
The exact amount raised hasn’t been calculated yet, but “it was an awesome number,” Jill Walters said.
MaKenna is a first-grader at Hall school. Jill said she sometimes talks to her classmates via webcam on the social networking site Skype.
Jill Walters is a teacher at Cody Elementary. She said Hall and Cody schools each held a special day when students could wear a hat to school if they provided donations.
MaKenna’s grandfather, Richard Hoffman, is a member of the Lincoln County Wildlife/Gun Club.
Two weeks ago, Hoffman helped organize a benefit clay shoot at the clubhouse near Lake Maloney. Hoffman said it was an informal competition. About 30 participants paid a $20 entry fee and received door prizse before the shoot began. Concessions were served, and $1,200 was raised for MaKenna. Hoffman said some gun club members gave extra contributions.
“A few of my friends just dropped a $100 bill in the donations bucket,” Hoffman said. “I was amazed.”
Hoffman said the family was distraught when they heard that MaKenna had to go back to the hospital Tuesday morning.
“Her mom didn’t get any sleep at all that night,” he said.
The Gun Club will host another benefit May 20, starting at 10 a.m.
On March 27, Godfather’s Pizza contributed 15-percent of all profits between 5-8 p.m.
“It was the best-selling three hours they’ve ever had.” Walters said. “They couldn’t keep up with the customers flowing in.”
A benefit account has been set up for MaKenna at Nebraskaland National Bank.
Donations are still pouring in.