Local activist seeks help raising funds for heart transplant
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD - Quite literally, Kim Gabriel is suffering from a broken heart.
After complications from an open-heart surgery in 2011 severely damaged her heart, the Melbourne resident was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, or Stage 3 heart failure. Doctors said that a heart transplant is crucial for her survival.
"A transplant is critical to living a long-term, normal life," Mrs. Gabriel said. "Life is a lot different for me now. I think a lot of people take things for granted. They get up, go to work, and think they can do it all. This has put my brakes on."
Prior to her diagnosis, Mrs. Gabriel, 54, was active in the community. She was involved with her church and her daughters' extracurricular activities. Furthermore, she served Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County for 18 years, which is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry, working to eliminate substandard and inadequate housing by building or restoring simple, decent, affordable houses with community partners and low-income families in need.
Mrs. Gabriel worked as president and CEO of the nonprofit for 10 years before stepping down to take on a different role, as director of marketing and public relations, when she became ill.
But now, it is Mrs. Gabriel who needs assistance. Though she has been on the waiting list for a transplant since April, a new heart comes at a high price, as the average heart transplant costs $1 million.
"And that's only the beginning," said Emily Joyner, the director of communications for the National Foundation for Transplants, a group that Mrs. Gabriel turned to for assistance in raising funds and support for her transplant, in a press release.
"Even with health insurance, she faces significant expenses related to the surgery. For the rest of her life, she will need follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications. Post-transplant medications are very pricey, and they're as critical to her survival as the transplant itself," Ms. Joyner added.
Still, Mrs. Gabriel remains positive.
"A lot of people keep saying to me, 'Why do bad things happen to good people?'" Mrs. Gabriel said. "I have realized that things aren't bad when they happen to us. At first, it was difficult to understand, but now I know (my condition) gives me the opportunity to share a story that I would never have shared. If I am going to go through this journey, I want to serve a purpose: I want people to be aware of the significance of becoming an organ donor."
She said in addition to spreading the word about organ donations, she doesn't take life for granted and is grateful for the outpouring of generosity from the community that she has received.
"I've been able to see how wonderful life really is," she said. "I go at a much slower pace because I have to, and it allows me to see things differently. I have so many blessings. So many people are reaching out to me. It is all very humbling."
On Monday, Oct. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m., the Chick-Fil-A in Melbourne, at 8300 N. Wickham Road, will donate a portion of its sales to Gabriel. All patrons who dine in must tell cashiers that they are dining for Kim Gabriel and the National Foundation for Transplants. For more information about this event, contact Carrie Grantham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People in the community may also help Mrs. Gabriel through her journey by making a tax-deductible donation to the National Foundation for Transplants in her honor. Visit www.transplants.org to donate online, or send a gift to the National Foundation for Transplants Florida Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Be sure to write "in honor of Kim Gabriel" in the subject line.