Entries in Inspirational Stories (4)


Woman Runs Marathon After Surviving Breast Cancer, Heart Transplant

Toni Wild(NEW ORLEANS) -- Toni Wild finished her first marathon on Sunday, an impressive feat for anybody. Still, what makes Wild’s accomplishment so incredible is that she had to overcome two bouts with breast cancer and heart failure to run it.

Wild, 50, was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29 in 1992. Chemotherapy and radiation left her cancer-free for five years. Tragically, a mere week after she had been given a clean bill of health, her husband was struck and killed by a car while changing a tire during a trip the two of them had taken.

Doctors asked whether Wild wanted to donate his organs, something they'd never talked about before.

"I made that decision," she said. "I was actually able to provide three families with a second chance at life.”

Her breast cancer came back a year after that. She would have to undergo more chemotherapy and radiation, but once again she was cancer-free by 1998.

However, all that chemotherapy had done damage to her heart. After an initial struggle to get doctors to listen to her suspicion that she had more than a minor illness, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure,  three months after her last round of chemotherapy. Her heart wasn't able to pump enough blood to the rest of her body.

For the next 11 years, Wild lived with varying signs and symptoms of heart failure, but medications and regular rest allowed her to live normally. The extreme fatigue and shortness of breath returned when she was 46. Wild's heart was worn out, and if she didn't get a heart transplant, she would die.

Only a week after doctors put her on the transplant list, the phone rang. She had a heart.

“It makes me realize there's so much truth in the statement of 'paying it forward,'" she said. "In 1997, when I decided to donate my husband's organs, I had absolutely no idea, would not even fathom the thought that, years down the road, I would find myself in that exact situation of needing a heart."

Now, she runs simply because she can. She says her donor allowed her to do something she never thought possible, so she doesn't say, "I ran seven half marathons," she says, "We ran seven half marathons."

On Sunday, four years after the transplant, she ran her first full marathon, called Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans. It took her six hours and 36 minutes because a virus kept her from training for 23 days before the race, but she finished.

"It was absolutely the most incredible day of my life," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Firefighters Rally for Baby With Heart Defect

Arnold Family/Facebook(LOS ANGELES) -- Four-month-old Paisley Mae Arnold looked perfect from the outside: chubby cheeks, giant eyes and a wisp of dark blond hair. She would occasionally wheeze, but doctors told her parents not to worry about that.

Then, last Thursday, doctors at Loma Linda University Medical Center Children’s Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., told the baby’s parents, Rick and Charity Arnold, that Paisley Mae wasn’t perfect.

She’d need a heart transplant to survive.

“She’s just a very special little girl, and we’re both looking forward to seeing her grow up, God willing,” Rick Arnold, a paramedic at Fire Station 302 in Hesperia, Calif., told KABC, the ABC-owned station in Los Angeles.

Paisley Mae was born without a left coronary artery, which caused her to have an enlarged heart, according to KABC. There is no cure, and she will eventually need a transplant. The night of the Feb. 21 diagnosis, she had a major bandycardic event, meaning her heart rate dangerously slowed, prompting doctors to do chest compressions and put her on a machine called an ECMO, which bypasses the heart to oxygenate the blood.

The close-knit group of firefighters at Station 302 has helped Arnold with shifts so that he can spend time with his daughter in the hospital, firefighters told KABC. They also began raising money by selling T-shirts and holding a charity 5K run. An online fundraiser, A Change of Heart for Paisley Mae, has already raised $7,833, according to its page on — $3,833 more than the original goal.

“Having this burden on their shoulders is difficult enough without having to worry about everyday bills and medical bills, so our hope is to just lessen that for them,” firefighter Blake Berg told KABC.

On Monday, doctors performed a six-hour surgery to give Paisley a Berlin Heart, which works outside the body to pump blood and maintain the other organs, hoping to buy Paisley some time until she can get a transplant. However, her lungs became inflamed and caused a hemorrhage after surgery, so doctors put her back on the ECMO machine, according to the Arnolds' Facebook page.

“Your continued love and support is a huge reason we are making it through this,” the Arnolds wrote on their Facebook page, which now has nearly 3,000 likes. “Thank you.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boy, 7, Raises More than 30,000 Dollars for Sick Friend

Courtesy David Siegel(LOS ANGELES) -- First-grader Jonah Pournazarian, 7, is best friends with Dylan Siegel, 6. Jonah has been diagnosed with glycogen storage disease type 1B, a rare liver disorder that doesn’t have a cure. Dylan decided to raise money for research to help his friend. Late last fall, he hatched a plan and approached his parents.

“We said, ‘Let’s do a lemonade stand, the typical thing,’” David Siegel, Dylan’s dad, told ABC News.

“He looked at us and said, ‘I want to write a book.’”

After just two months on the market, sales of the handwritten and illustrated book and chocolate bars have raised $30,000 and counting, David Siegel said.

Now Dylan’s goal is $1 million, his father said.

The 16-page book Chocolate Bar, uses the term to mean “cool.” “Disneyland is so chocolate bar,” the book starts out. The ending? “I like to help my friends. That is the biggest chocolate bar.”

The book and Siegel’s efforts have gotten a little help. Whole Foods has donated hundreds of chocolate bars.  A local Barnes & Noble bookstore hosted a book signing that drew 200 people, Dylan’s father said. People from states including Tennessee and Missouri have donated money to the cause via Facebook and a website. The boys appeared on CBS television show The Doctors last week, pinching each others’ cheeks as they told their story.

The money from the fund and book and chocolate sales have been sent to the University of Florida School of Medicine in Gainsville, where research is taking place under Dr. David Weinstein, who is working with 200 families.

Jonah was diagnosed with his illness when he was a baby and suffered from night sweats and low blood sugar, his father said. This genetic condition afflicts one in a million children, his father said. Most days all he eats is cornstarch mixed with chicken soup with vegetables that his mother makes and feeds him through a tube, his father said. At school, Jonah’s parents have had to ask parents of other children to keep their child home if they get sick or to at least notify Jonah’s parents so they can keep him home.

As a result of Siegel’s efforts, the rare disease has gotten national attention for the first time.

Jonah and his family couldn’t be happier.

“We never dreamed that this was going to happen,” David Siegel said. “It’s just struck a nerve and now we don’t want to stop until we’ve hit our mission.”

That’s pretty chocolate bar.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Bowen Hammitt's Small Heart Is a Big Inspiration for His Family

File Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Bowen Matthew Hammitt came into this world on Sept. 9, at 9 pounds, 7 ounces, with a wisp of light brown hair and a heart condition that threatened his survival.

"When he came out, I thought he would look different," says his mother, Sarah Hammitt, 31. "[But] he looked totally fine. So it was hard to see a baby that looked so beautiful and know that his insides weren't perfect. I kind of felt like, This isn't real. It couldn't be.'"

Bowen was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare congenital defect in which the left side of the heart is dangerously underdeveloped. In babies with HLHS, the left side of the heart cannot pump blood, so the right side must supply both the lungs and the body. Without surgical intervention, the condition is fatal.

"Any parent would say that watching your child go through something like that is much worse than going through it yourself," says Bowen's father, Matt Hammitt, 31. "You want to take their place, but you can't. That's been the most difficult part for me."

On September 13th, four days after Bowen was born, he underwent his first open-heart surgery at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The procedure successfully inserted a shunt into his heart and, after several hours at Bowen's bedside in intensive care, Sarah and Matt finally felt confident enough to go next door to their hotel room for some rest. A couple of hours later, the phone rang. "Two-thirteen a.m. I will never forget that time," says Matt.

Bowen's heart had stopped beating, and by the time the Hammitts reached the hospital, doctors and nurses were frantically trying to save his life. After about forty minutes, Sarah and Matt were losing hope. "They took us into another room," says Matt, "and we thought for sure he was gone." Sarah recalls she began to wonder how it was going to feel to be a mother who had lost a child. "We were just waiting for them to call out the time [of death]," she remembers. "I kept looking at the clock and, 'ok, when are they going to say it? Just say it.'"

Fortunately, the medical staff was eventually able to revive Bowen. "We were so confused," recalls Matt. "We didn't understand that after that long that they could stabilize a child on life support. [But] we found out his heart was beating, his lungs were working."

Throughout their difficult ordeal, the Hammitts have been sharing their experiences on a website they call "Bowen's Heart." What started as a place to keep friends and family up to date on Bowen's health, soon began to attract thousands of visitors who regularly check in to share stories and offer encouragement to the Hammitts and to each other. "We started discovering so much and experiencing so much growth through all of this that we just wanted to share that with people and show that, in a really dark time of life, there is hope," explains Matt. "All the good that has come out of it has been pretty amazing."

Sarah Hammitt says the blog also serves as a place to give meaning to Bowen's life. "We're not guaranteed any amount of time," she says. "So we were immediately giving him a place and a purpose."

"We wanted his life to make a difference," adds Matt, "no matter how long or short it would be."

Bowen spent the first ten weeks of his life in the hospital. But finally -- just in time for Thanksgiving -- Bowen was well enough to go home to Perrysburg, Ohio. Dressed in a black and grey striped outfit and clutching a stuffed alligator, Bowen got a standing ovation from the nursing staff as his parents carried him out to the car. Matt held Sarah closely, comforting her as her eyes filled with tears.

When their silver SUV pulled into the driveway an hour later, Bowen's big sisters, Emmy and Claire, were waiting outside, each with a teddy bear to present to their brother for his homecoming.

Bowen's second surgery is scheduled for February.

ABC News Radio