LIVONIA – A former Livonia swim team captain, cross country runner, and now father of three little girls is a top priority for a heart and kidney transplant that could restore to him life as a healthy dad, but is reaching out to the community for help getting there.
According to a press release from Molly and Kevin Christenson with Diane Braselton, the family has set up a fundraising page at GoFundMe.com/KevinChristenson to help pay for medical bills, for which they have already paid $60,000, to bring their family life back to normal.
“I’ve been very limited in what I can do for years,” said Christenson. “So the girls ask me, ‘Can you swim with us Daddy when you get a new heart? Can you go for a bike ride with us?’ That’s what we’re all hoping for.”
It was in September 1999 when a virus attacked Christenson’s heart, making him dependent on a machine to pump his blood.
After waiting for months, Christenson received a life-saving transplant, a heart that would enable him to return to college, complete his bachelor’s degree, and begin a career in the engineering field.
However, the heart that saved Christenson’s life and gave him some stability is now failing. He has an aggressive form of coronary artery disease and end-stage renal failure, both of which stem from his transplant medications. He needs both a heart and a kidney, and they must come from the same donor.
The Christensons moved to Maine in 2014 to be closer to Molly’s family and their support. Christenson began receiving dialysis treatments 18 hours each week, and continued working part-time as a mechanical engineer despite the pain and fatigue.
After chest pains in June, Christenson was transported by ambulance from Maine to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, the hospital closest to Maine that is most likely to have a new heart for him first. Tests revealed he needs a heart transplant sooner rather than later, and his transplant status was raised to 1A—the highest priority level.
Knowing medical bills were piling up and Christenson wouldn’t be able to work for much longer, friends and family started a GoFundMe page. Molly’s sister, Karrie Myer, maintains the page and said she hopes it will raise more than $50,000 for the family.
“We sat down with Molly and Kevin and estimated it will cost at least $50,000 for medical bills not covered by insurance, Molly’s travel back and forth from Maine to New Jersey, a hotel for the girls to stay in when they visit, and all the additional expenses you don’t think about that add up,” said Myer. The page has generated $22,800 so far.
After Christenson’s transplant, he will be required to live within 30 minutes of the hospital for at least 60 days, Myer said. Once he is cleared to return to Maine, Christenson will have to travel to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center frequently for check-ups.
“It gets expensive very quickly,” said Myer. “He and Molly will have to have a place to stay during the first 60 days, and even when they can return home it will be expensive. Kevin will have to travel to see his doctors in New Jersey. In the past, Kevin and Molly would drive all night or sleep in their car in unsavory neighborhoods for out-of-town doctor visits. But it’s important that they be safe. Our goal is to alleviate the hidden costs.”
Christenson says he’s fighting for the chance to stay with his family as they continue to grow.
“I want to play in the ocean with my family. I want to hold Molly’s hand on her 40th birthday. I want to watch my girls grow up,” he said. “That’s what I’m fighting for.”