Linsey Rippy knows the pain of watching a child go through a heart transplant. She's lived through it — twice. Linsey's daughters, Madi and Sydney, were born with dilated cardiomyopathy and had heart transplants at Mayo Clinic. "Everything gets ripped out from under you," Linsey tells us. There's the emotional devastation, of course. But as she and others like her quickly discover, there's also financial stress. "If your kid gets their tonsils out, you take a day off of work for the surgery, a day off for the recovery," she says. "Imagine what it's like when your kid has a transplant." Days quickly turn to weeks and months. And the bills keep coming.
While insurance helps with medical bills, families are on their own to cover other expenses. Or, they were on their own. Thanks to a new nonprofit, families like the Rippys now have help. Ireland's Hope, inspired by and named for young heart transplant recipient Ireland Larson, is dedicated to helping families with their day-to-day living expenses — things like mortgage payments, car insurance and utility bills. "We make it so that when you finally go home, the lights are turned on," says Linsey, who volunteers as a family outreach coordinator for the organization.
Ireland's Hope has a second goal as well: raising awareness of the need for organ donations, including pediatric donations, which give kids like Madi, Sydney and Finn Olson another chance at life. Finn was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect just days after his birth in January 2017 and had a heart transplant at Mayo Clinic six months later. After 209 days in the hospital, Finn is doing well and home with his parents, Ali and Jeff, and big brother, Asher. "Finn is the strongest child I know," Ali tells us. "He fought hard to be here."
Finn will be honored for that fight on April 26, when he receives a Heart Warrior Award at the Ireland's Hope second annual Angel Heart Gala. Ali and Jeff will accept the award on Finn's behalf and share his story at the event. "I am so proud of him and hope that sharing his story will help other families," Ali says, adding that they also hope to inspire others "to help, donate, support or love a little more." Tickets are still available for the event, which includes dinner, silent and live auctions, and a wine pull.
"It's so rewarding to be able to raise money to help these families," Patti O'Connor tells us. Patti is Ireland's aunt and founder and executive director of Ireland's Hope. "Pediatric heart transplant is a serious topic. It's heavy. The reason Ireland and other children are alive is because another family, in their darkest hour, made a decision," she says. "That decision gives other families hope. And hope is what the gala is all about."
Learn about the gala, which also will feature an award presentation to Mayo Clinic's own Jonathan Johnson, M.D. , here. Then, we hope you'll leave a comment below before you use the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.