Swift Cur­rent res­i­dent re­ceiv­ing com­mu­nity sup­port as he waits for heart trans­plant surgery

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­[email protected]­t.com

A Swift Cur­rent res­i­dent who has been an ac­tive vol­un­teer in the com­mu­nity in sup­port of refugee fam­i­lies is now fac­ing a new chal­lenge as he pre­pares for heart trans­plant surgery.

Sammy Khal­ife is a health care worker and a Swift Cur­rent res­i­dent since July 2015. Since his ar­rival in the com­mu­nity he has be­come ac­tively in­volved with the work of the Swift Cur­rent and Area Min­is­te­rial As­so­ci­a­tion (SCAMA) Refugee Com­mit­tee, both as a trans­la­tor and as a health co­or­di­na­tor.

Last year he vis­ited a refugee camp in Le­banon and af­ter­wards he started a GoFundMe cam­paign to spon­sor a refugee fam­ily from Syria.

Re­cently his own health has suf­fered a se­ri­ous set­back and he is now un­able to work while he waits for a heart trans­plant.

“In one month I got two heart fail­ures,” he said. "I was in the ICU here and was air­lifted to an ICU in Saska­toon, and I was very close to death. So they've just started the prepa­ra­tion for my trans­plant. There is a lot of test­ing that needs to be done, a lot of co­or­di­na­tion with the fam­ily doc­tor, pub­lic health, home care, phys­io­ther­apy. I need to put a plan to­gether be­fore Oct. 2, when I have a big as­sess­ment in Ed­mon­ton, be­cause that's where the trans­plant team is, and af­ter that any minute I can get a heart.”

He suf­fers from hy­per­trophic car­diomy­opa­thy, a hered­i­tary heart con­di­tion that al­ready had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on his fam­ily.

“I lost my mom, my brother and my sis­ter for the same con­di­tion,” he said. “My sis­ter was 16, but I was told when I'm older I might need a heart trans­plant. ... The last test­ing showed that my heart func­tions at less than 25 per cent. The life ex­pectancy is any­where from six months to a year, which put me right away on the trans­plant list.”

Khal­ife is now 34 years old, the same age as his brother who passed away due to this con­gen­i­tal heart is­sue. He faces a long road to re­cov­ery af­ter the heart trans­plant and he will have to re­main in Ed­mon­ton for at least three months be­fore he can re­turn to Swift Cur­rent. Dur­ing his re­cov­ery at home he needs to have a fam­ily mem­ber with him, but he does not have any fam­ily in Canada. He grew up in Le­banon and he still has rel­a­tives there.

“My sis­ter is able to come on a vis­i­tor's visa,” he said. “So my sis­ter will be here with me as long as she is al­lowed to or she can.”

The soon­est he will be able to work again is a year af­ter the trans­plant, but in most cases it will be 18 months. He is fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial ex­penses dur­ing this time, in­clud­ing the cost of stay­ing in Ed­mon­ton and monthly med­i­ca­tion costs of around $950.

“So the way it works right now with my ben­e­fits, by De­cem­ber prob­a­bly I won't have any ben­e­fits left,” he said. “If the surgery is ex­pected to hap­pen end of Oc­to­ber or the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber, that means my ben­e­fits will ex­pire at the time they're needed the most.”

A friend, San­dra Sad­den, has started a GoFundMe cam­paign to raise funds for him, but he was ini­tially re­luc­tant when she sug­gested the idea to him.

“When she came with the idea, I said no. I don't like to be in need, and I said no, I'm not go­ing to do it,” he re­called. “I can't be­lieve how life can change from be­ing a helper and col­lect­ing money to help peo­ple and now you are the per­son that peo­ple are try­ing to help. So I said no at first, but then when I looked into my ben­e­fits and I called my ben­e­fits provider and a lawyer and fig­ured out that I won't have ben­e­fits any­time soon, I re­ally didn't have any other op­tion than to say yes.”

He has been sur­prised by the sup­port from peo­ple in the com­mu­nity and he is now feel­ing even more at home in Swift Cur­rent.

“It was just a amaz­ing to see that peo­ple ac­tu­ally cared for me,” he said. “I didn't grow up here, I've only been here for a cou­ple of years. So I just don't feel like I'm a stranger any­more or an out­sider.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence has strength­ened his re­solve to re­main in­volved with the ac­tiv­i­ties of the SCAMA Refugee Com­mit­tee, which is cur­rently pre­par­ing to wel­come another refugee fam­ily to Swift Cur­rent, and he will rely on his faith to help him through his health strug­gle.

“Per­son­ally I have been through many dif­fi­cult po­si­tions and in any sit­u­a­tion I say in God I trust,” he men­tioned. “I leave it to the best physi­cian, our Lord. He has a plan and it will work out. I'll keep pos­i­tive and I'm very lucky and im­pressed how the com­mu­nity in Swift Cur­rent came to­gether to sup­port me and stand by me.”

The GoFundMe page that was set up for him is called Sammy's Heart Trans­plant Jour­ney and the web­site link is: www.gofundme.com/sam­my039s-heart­trans­plant-jour­ney


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