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Recipient of new heart comes home

Dawn M. Kurry Richmond County Daily Journal

September 20, 2013

A Rockingham couple that has endured the anticipation of waiting on a heart transplant is finally heading home filled with gratitude.


Steve Snead’s heart was in failure, and doctor’s were using a balloon pump to keep his heart going. His wife Christina said the pump was keeping him at the top of the transplant list at Duke Hospital. On Sept. 1, Christina said she got the distinct feeling it was a special day.


“I said, ‘I think you’re going to get your heart today,’” said Christina, with tears, “and he did.”


“I am telling you honestly, they were saying, ‘I don’t know how this happened, this heart wasn’t up for anyone else to take,’” she said, explaining that the doctors said the heart “just fell in their laps” but Christina said, “I know it was God.”


The first week of having the new heart was difficult for Steve, with multiple strokes, blood clots and surgeries. Even with a young heart, Steve was in total heart failure.


“This man on the transplant team came to me and said there was new research he wanted to try, Steve would be making history, and I just signed the paperwork,” said Christina. “It was a temporary assistant device, he had it four days, and his heart was going full blast with zero rejection. He will have three main anti-rejection meds for three months and will have in-home IV meds for a month and a half. I can’t believe medicare does not pay for something like that. He’ll need to take 15 different meds for life that are for anti-rejection. The first three are a doozy.”


Because the cost burden of the initial anti-rejection medicines is so heavy on the Sneads, the church family of Abundant Life Church in East Rockingham is having a fundraiser drawing on Sept. 27 that will include a drawing for Panthers tickets, a $500 Walmart gift card or four hours of house cleaning. Tickets are $10. The drawing will take place at 4 p.m. at the church and you do not have to be present to win.


On Sept. 28, the church will have a barbecue or chicken plate sale for $7 a plate that comes with beans, slaw, a roll and cake. Orders of five or more will be delivered. You can eat in or take out. Youth will also be selling hot dogs for a donation from 4 to 5:30 p.m., and at 6 p.m. the Singing Revelations will perform. Youth will also be selling donuts for $6. All proceeds go to the Snead family.


“I’m not fixing to worry about this, God has laid it out this far and he will continue to do so,” said Christina, who said she is touched by the generosity she has seen.


“Community wise — not just the church — there have been so many churches that have brought stuff, food, and donations. I can’t even recall all the church names but even churches from out of town donated. A lady who knew my husband from high school from Raleigh gave me a card with $100 in it. Even if you still sleep in a chair here it costs. It’s day 37, and he’s going home today. I’ve never been so humbled in all my life at the generosity of people.


“This is a new chapter for us,” said Christina. “Sometimes you’re just blown away by the way things happen. Only three days I didn’t drive back and forth. They wouldn’t let you stay in the room. One night they allowed me to stay because they didn’t think he’d make it through. He had blood clots and total heart failure. When you drive back and forth, I used that time to call on God and pray and said, ‘you weren’t going to leave me.’ I learned a lot through this whole thing. I’ve always tried to help people, but I’ve never ever seen so much generosity or love come from an entire town.”


When this process began, Steve’s heart was only functioning 5 percent, and he doesn’t remember the two weeks before his heart transplant.


“Strokes, fevers, he was just dying,” said his wife, sobbing. “I said, ‘God, you let him live through all these things’ and I just knew deep down God wouldn’t let him survive if he wasn’t going to keep him here. God uses things like this to show you the miracle he performed 2,000 years ago you can still perform today.”


Steve will get weekly biopsies, and has already had two. He will go two more times weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly. Each time they make sure the heart’s not being rejected. The first year is critical, because that’s when something will happen, if it’s going to happen. The recovery journey is long and never truly ends, as germs will always be a threat to Steve.


The heart belonged to a young man, an accident victim. Christina can’t contact the family for the first six months but knows they are from the Charlotte area. The heart is 20-30 years old, and is healthy.


“The staff at Duke, you would not believe, those people have come to visit — we’ve been to three different places — they come to learn things in your life and ask you about it, like you’re part of the family,” she said. “The doctors will cut up with you and ask what they can get you. The whole deal is absolutely amazing. They don’t treat any one person different than another. They go out of their way to help you.”


Back in Rockingham, people came by to cut the grass. They brought food and helped look after the Snead’s daughter. Christina can’t hold back the tears when she describes the overwhelming thanks in her heart, and hopes she can in some way reach everyone who helped her family.


“They know who they are and God knows who they are and he’ll reward them,” she said.


To purchase tickets for the fundraiser, donuts or for other information, call Pastor Joe Wilkes at 843-439-0677, the church office at 910-410-0544 or visit the church at 139 School Street in Rockingham.


Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at dkurry@civitasmedia.com.