(Staff Photo by Chris Landsberger)

Waiting for a miracle !
Nora McKay, Staff Writer November 30, 2001
Enid News & Eagle, 2001)

At the age of 40, Jeanie Crisp, a mother of five, has learned she has contracted a virus that is attacking her heart. She is on the list for a heart transplant.

I'm not greedy. I don't go to bed at night saying, 'Oh Lord give me 20 or 30 years.' I want five more years. I want to see my children graduate from high school - that's all I'm asking for. If He wants to call me before then I'm going to be upset about it ... I'm not through yet.- Jeanie Crisp

Not many people would consider their dentist to be an angel sent from heaven, but Jeanie Crisp just might. A routine dental visit proved to be a lifesaver for the 40-year-old mother of five. Plagued by tiredness for about 10 years, Crisp never quite knew what was ailing her body. When she visited Dr. Steven Durr, she filled out a medical history form and two words threw up a red flag for the dentist - heart murmur. The medical condition can be problematic in dentistry, so Durr consulted with his patient. Crisp was aware of the leaky valve in her heart, but it wasn't until Durr questioned her that she took action. After a trip to the Vance Air Force Base Clinic, Crisp was referred to Dr. Douglas K. Brown Sr., a cardiologist with Northwest Oklahoma Cardiology Inc. The news she received was distressing. She had contracted a virus that attacked her heart muscle, resulting in cardiomyopathy - total failure of the left side of her heart. On Oct. 25, she was placed on Oklahoma's list for a heart transplant. "The first thing I thought was, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die.' I'm 40 years old, and I have two children left at home. I have two grandchildren ... it is very scary, very scary," Crisp said. "I actually try not to think about it at times because if I do look at the facts and the figures and what the percentages are, I'll start bawling. I can't. I've got children. You just carry on and do what you have to do."

Over the years, Crisp had been to countless doctors, each one offering a misdiagnosis - often saying her problem was depression, she said. Some physicians even commented about the extra beat in her heart but blew it off, saying it was nothing to worry about. Durr thought differently, and for that Crisp is thankful. "I can thank him for helping me because I know what is wrong with me now ... I didn't realize this heart murmur could be so deadly ... I'm just really grateful," Crisp said. Durr said he is no expert in heart murmurs, but he knew Crisp needed to be examined. "This is totally unforeseen. In Jeanie's case, the best thing was she was intelligent enough to go get herself checked out. We didn't play that big of a role other than pointing out the problem," he said. "Hopefully everything turns out great. She's a nice lady, and I'm praying for her."

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Crisp. She has been through test after test, but she still remains positive. She feels a sense of reassurance from her transplant coordinator, Dr. David Nelson, of the Nazih Zuhdi Transplantation Institute at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Crisp has A positive blood, and in Oklahoma that blood type receives the most frequent tissue and organ donations. "Because of this, the A list moves very quickly ... I am at the bottom of the heap, but he (Nelson) said I should have a transplant by the time winter's over. They tell me I'm a prime candidate because I have nothing else wrong with me," she said. Dealing with a distinctly uncommon illness is not easy for patients, but Brown, Crisp's cardiologist, said Crisp's attitude is admirable. "Jeanie has really been a trooper in accepting this ... she has an outstanding attitude," he said. Although she exudes confidence about the transplant, Crisp does admit she fears the unknown. She has written her will, and she began teaching her two teenage children how to become more independent. Although she has never been an extremely religious person, she now very much believes in the power of prayer. "I really do think God will get me through this. I think God took me to that dentist, and he wanted me to find out. I really think everything will be OK because nothing has gone wrong," Crisp said. "I'm not greedy. I don't go to bed at night saying, 'Oh Lord give me 20 or 30 years.' I want five more years," she said. "I want to see my children graduate from high school - that's all I'm asking for. If He wants to call me before then I'm going to be upset about it ... I'm not through yet."

Crisp said one of the most difficult aspects of the illness has been not appearing sick to the public. "It's my heart that's sick," she said. Crisp tried to go shopping over the holidays and was unable to walk through the mall without feeling breathless. Vacuuming the floors in her home also has become an impossible task. Expenses are another concern for the family. She and her husband, William, are involved in a long-distance relationship. He works in South America, but the miles between them are something they acclimated to during his time in the military. William Crisp is home only two weeks out of the month, but he took a month and a half of unpaid leave when his wife's illness was first discovered.

The family already has dipped into its savings. Insurance is taking care of most of the bills, but Jeanie Crisp worries about the post-surgery days. As a transplant patient, she will need to remain in the Oklahoma City area for two to six weeks after surgery. The cost of the non-medical bills alone are overwhelming. Medication can be upward of $3,000 during the first month, and she expects to pay about $1,000 out of pocket in the following months. Organizing fund-raising efforts has been difficult for Crisp. The military family has lived in Enid only a few months shy of three years, and Crisp said they have few friends in the area.

The family has established a National Transplant Assistance Fund in her name. The NTAF, a non-profit organization, will serve as the trustee of the fund. Donations are tax deductible and will be used for transplant-related expenses only. When her fund reaches $1,000 in donations, NTAF will match it with a one-time grant. For more information, call NTAF at 1-800-642-8399.

Checks, with a memo line labeled in honor of Jeanie Crisp, can be made payable to NTAF Heart Transplant Fund and sent to NTAF Heart Transplant Fund, 3475 West Chester Pike, Suite 230, Newton Square, PA 19073.

Donations also can be made at www.transplantfund.org. ŠEnid News & Eagle 2001

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