$70,000 appeal to save HB heart girl
A $70,000 appeal is being launched in Hawke’s Bay to send Eval Harris, 13, Pakipaki, to England for a heart transplant operation.
The Heretaunga Lions Club in Hastings is starting the appeal on Monday and hopes to raise the money in time for Eval to leave for Harefield Hospital in England at the end of next month.
The Lions district governor, Mr Ken Graham, said Eval was on the waiting list for a heart transplant but it could not go ahead until $57,000 had been deposited in the hospital’s trust account.
A further $13,000 is needed for travel and living expenses in England for Eval and her mother Waa.
Workers at the Tomoana freezing works, where Eval’s father Hemi is employed, are also raising money for him to make the trip.
The money needed for the operation covers the cost of Eval’s hospital stay, the transportation of the donor heart and any fees.
Mr Graham said because of the type of condition Eval suffers from Australian hospitals would not accept her for a transplant operation.
Donations to the appeal can be deposited at any branch of the Eastern and Central Trustee Savings Bank. Other collection points, including the Stortford Lodge Hotel, are also to be set up in Hawke’s Bay.
Mr Graham said the family hoped to raise $10,000 and Lions clubs throughout the district from Ruatoria to Featherston could donate another $10,000.
The Heretaunga Lions Club is planning a big publicity campaign for the appeal and are looking at a variety of ways of raising the money.
They will contact clubs in other districts to ask for help.
Eval’s condition was diagnosed after she had treatment for cancer.
Drugs damaged heart
Her paediatrician, Dr David Barry, said drugs administered during the cancer treatment severely damaged her heart.
“One month after stopping the cancer therapy, Eval noticed she was becoming very short of breath on mild exertion.
“This shortness of breath was due to heart failure and it became clear Eval had suffered a well-known but uncommon side effect of one of the anti-cancer drugs.”
Dr Barry said Eval’s life had been very restricted during the past two years and there had been a steady but slow deterioration in her condition.
The only hope for Eval was a heart-transplant operation, he said.
Dr Barry has also approached the Social Welfare Department, Accident Compensation Corporation, Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board and the Hawke’s Bay branch of the New Zealand Cancer Society to provide some of the money needed.
Plucky Eval is no stranger to hospitals
Eval Harris is no stranger to the inside of hospitals.
The small, quiet Pakipaki teenager has spent the last five years in and out of hospital wards. She can no longer lead the carefree life of youngsters her age.
But she accepts her illness even though some people find it hard to cope with such a burden.
“It is a little bit scary,” she admits.
“She went from being a nine-year-old to a 19-year-old when she first became ill,” said her mother, Mrs Waa Harris. “She is the one who has pulled us through – she is so tough and mature for her age.”
Although Eval has lost many friends through cancer – including Jock [Hallgarth], a special friend who died eight months ago – she has not given up her fight for life.
“The children are always very close to each other.
“Only they can understand what they are going through.
“Eval has always shown her concern for others,” said her mother.
Eval has been in remission since 1982 and has been aware of her health problems since they were first diagnosed.
Eval has had to give up sport and continue schooling through correspondence and the hospital. Her favourite hobbies are indoor games – chess and Trivial Pursuit which she plays with a teacher at the hospital.
“Trivial Pursuit is pretty hard but I have learned some of the questions off by heart,” she says with a grin.
Last Christmas Eval was a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding.
Although it was a long, tiring day she refused to sit in a wheelchair or rest at all. She carried out all the duties expected of her and at the end of the day she said. “It was the best day ever.”
Eval has the biggest say in what goes on with her health and has accepted that an operation in England is the only solution. “I think about going there sometimes and wonder what it will be like. “‘It is a little bit frightening but I want to get well.”
Following advice from Eval’s doctor, Mr and Mrs Harris are also convinced that a heart transplant is the only answer for their child.
“She would lead a normal life if she had a normal heart – once she is right life will be good,” said Mr Harris.
Life has been traumatic for the Harris family during the last few years. Mr Harris’ father has been diagnosed as having leukaemia and his wife’s brother-in-law has been diagnosed as having cancer – her mother died of it last year.
The family live on the Houngarea marae in Pakipaki and say the communal life-style has helped them cope with Eval’s illness.
“We are surrounded by family and everyone has been very supportive,” said Mrs Harris.
If anyone has “missed out” they say it is Eval’s younger sister Janet, who is too young to understand why Eval gets all the attention and presents.
Although Eval hates hospital – especially staying overnight – her family say it is her home away from home.
“The staff at ward five of the Hastings hospital have been tremendous – they are a family away from her family,” said Mrs Harris.
Both parents belong to the cancer-child support group and say it is a place where they can share things they wouldn’t be able to tell other people.
“People who have gone through it can talk about it in a different way to those who haven’t” said Mrs Harris.
Sometimes the couple find life difficult.
“It isn’t much fun – we can’t go out together which is a bit hard.”
Although friends are willing to look after Eval Mr and Mrs Harris don’t like to leave them with that kind of responsibility.
“Also Eval doesn’t feel very secure when we are not around – which is understandable,” said Mr Harris.
The fight against cancer seems to be over. Eval’s new battle is a fight for a heart. It is one her family hope she will win – otherwise there is little hope for their child.
“There is too much wrong.
“The doctor said that with the operation she will be able to lead a normal life – now she is coping and that is all. “
Photo caption – Mrs Waa Harris, Eval and Mr Hemi Harris. On Monday the Heretaunga Lions Club will launch their appeal to send Eval and her mother to England for a heart-transplant operation.