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Hope for a Heart: Arndt Family Turns to the Community for Help

Janet Arndt, of the Gingerwood neighborhood, and her family will hold a fundraiser to help pay for a heart transplant.

Janet Arndt has undergone five open-heart surgeries in the last 37 years.

Now, Janet, an resident, needs a new heart. Because of her medical history and the severity of her condition, none of the hospitals in the suburbs, the rest of Illinois or even Indiana will put her on the heart transplant list.

It wasn’t until her long-time cardiac doctor contacted a friend at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota that she now had a chance.

“It’s possible I could get a heart within a year. But nothing's guaranteed. You know that,” said Janet, who has lived in the Gingerwood neighborhood for 13 years.

As if that wasn’t enough, her husband David recently lost his job and the union insurance plan will run out by the end of December. After that, she’ll be forced to go on Medicare.

Each trip to the Mayo Clinic costs the family $800. When a heart comes through, Janet will have to stay near the clinic for at least three months by renting housing available there.

To help, a fundraiser is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28. It will run from 7 p.m. to midnight at 115 Bourbon Street, located at 3359 West 115th St. in Merrionette Park. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Cash raffles and a silent auction will be available.

Visit www.heart4janet.org for more information.

For Janet, the struggle has been lifelong. She was born four weeks late, completely blue. The doctors said she had a heart murmur that would need to be checked out. At eight days old, she stopped breathing. She would have three surgeries by the age of 19.

Janet graduated from college, got married and had their first child, David, despite the high risk associated with her condition. When David was 18 months, in 2001, he visited yet another cardiologist. Her heart had deteriorated to the point where she had to have an aortic valve replaced. She chose a pig valve, instead of a mechanical valve (a mechanic valve would require medication for the rest of her life) so that she could continue to have children.

By 2006, Janet had heart block and opted for the mechanical valve. She and David already had a second child, Justin, who is now 8. Their oldest, Kevin, is now 12.

Last year, she underwent her fifth surgery. She was diagnosed with complete heart failure following the surgery. Since then, it’s been a waiting game, searching for a new heart.

“You have to keep your spirits up,” Janet said. “It’s just the way it is until I get this new heart.”

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chuck toland June 08, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Our prayeres for Janet and your family. The Oak Forest community will rise to the occasion to help out.
Nick Swedberg June 08, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Please visit www.heart4janet.org for more information about the Arndt family.
Jeanne E. Fredriksen June 11, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Janet and David Arndt were my next door neighbors for years before I moved to North Carolina last summer. It was good to spend time with them last Wednesday, catching up and enjoying a pleasant, relaxing outdoor evening. I urge Gingerwood *and* Oak Forest to turn out for the fundraiser!
Nick Swedberg June 11, 2012 at 09:18 PM
@Jeanne—Thanks for posting that story!

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