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“Jump Rope for a New Heart”

Tiffin gym raises money for area man’s transplant
(From left) Gary Goldsmith, Tami Murphy, Lana Goldsmith and Susan Hawkins jump rope for a minute in an effort to raise money for local man Eric McClintock at Drew Murphy’s fitness center in Tiffin Saturday, April 21. McClintock, 47, was born with a severe heart defect in which his major blood vessels are reversed. He is currently on waiting lists for heart transplants in Iowa and Nebraska. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

By Shianne Fisher
North Liberty Leader

TIFFIN– Eric McClintock hadn’t even met the man organizing a fundraiser for his pending heart transplant.
“There are only so many appointments to go to, so many meals you can bring,” said McClintock, who was born with a rare heart defect. “In short of saying hand me cash, this is one way we could tell people who were asking something they can do.”
The Jump Rope for a New Heart event at Drew Murphy’s gym in Tiffin was just one in a string of fundraising episodes to benefit McClintock’s transplant journey, which could cost more than $500,000 even with insurance.
“One thing Eric has always understood is transplant is not a cure for his condition,” said his partner Tammy Osterhaus. “It’s basically trading one set of issues with another set. He’s going to have a healthy heart but he still has to take meds for the rest of his life to make sure that heart stays where it’s supposed to.”
Those anti-rejection medications and follow-up appointments mean a lifetime of care.
“It just adds up,” said McClintock, who now lives south of Cedar Rapids after a move from North Liberty.
He said it’s been great to watch their friends and different businesses donate their time and money for his cause.
“It really makes them feel good, too,” he said. “It’s a total win-win situation.”
For Murphy, it just seemed like the right thing to do after he noticed one of his clients wearing McClintock’s fundraising T-shirt: New Heart, New Start.
“When I first opened, I was listening to a podcast or something and I kind of got the idea to do a charity workout,” said Murphy. “The main purpose is certainly to help the person or the organization we’re raising funds for, but also a good opportunity for people to come and see my business.”
He’s held a handful of fundraisers since opening the gym in October 2014 but took a break of sorts after the birth of his first child. But this fundraiser seemed to organize itself.
“I’d been trying to promote it,” said Lana Goldsmith. “Drew saw my T-shirt and said, ‘Hey, let’s do a fundraiser.’ The two of us kind of brainstormed and figured out what we were going to do after that.”
Goldsmith, a childhood friend of Osterhaus, also doesn’t personally know McClintock but sees him sometimes at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where she works in the catheterization laboratory, which houses imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries and chambers of the heart.
Osterhaus said it had been years between high school reunions and their reconnection at the hospital.
“Next thing I know she’s buying shirts and then informs me her gym is going to hold this fundraiser,” she said.
Murphy and about a half-dozen of his clients and family members met at the training center the morning of Saturday, April 22, to jump rope for McClintock. Each skip completed by a participant yielded a certain amount of money from a sponsor, depending on the sponsorship level.
“It’s a good cause,” said participant Dave Lusson of Iowa City. “It’s a chance to help a guy out.” He added it’s easy to take for granted being able to do things, like work out and exercise when others like McClintock aren’t able to.
“Everybody here has such big hearts,” Goldsmith added.
All in all, just over $3,500 was added to the $3,000 already raised through an online crowd fund campaign– Eric’s Change of Heart– by One Mission, of Mount Vernon. The site’s fundraising programs include an online store, custom apparel, and photo canvas or candle fundraising. The site lists a $25,000 goal for McClintock.
“To see them take a selfie with my shirt on that has our logo on it, that’s pretty amazing,” McClintock said. “I’m very thankful and grateful for that.”
While a heart transplant may be his most significant procedure, McClintock is no stranger to the operating table. At just six months, he underwent his first surgery to combat his congenital Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA), a condition in which the flow of two main arteries is reversed, resulting in a shortage of oxygen to the rest of the body. Another surgery when he was 2 years old– called the Mustard Procedure– game him a chance to live a relatively normal life.
“I did well in elementary school and high school, especially academically, and was able to keep up with my friends with almost no limitations,” he wrote on the Facebook page Eric’s Change of Heart. “I was never a runner and couldn’t play contact sports, but I found other avenues, like golf and cycling, that allowed me to not just survive those years, but to thrive as well.”
Now nearing 50, he’s one of the longest living survivors of those pioneering surgical techniques in the early 1970s, and– apart from a mild hiccup and pacemaker implant in his mid 20s– he has lived the normal life the procedures promised him. Often people don’t even realize he has a heart defect, he claimed.
“And the ones who did know didn’t seem to think it defined me or limited me much at all,” he wrote.
But, in 2013, McClintock began to feel the wear and tear the condition had on his heart. And in February 2014, doctors told him it was time to consider going on the transplant list.
He was added on Aug. 22, 2014. And now, he waits.
“It’s pretty uneventful, actually. They don’t give you regular updates,” McClintock shared.
“Unless we ask, they won’t tell us if we got any hearts even offered. If we ask they’ll tell us if they had a call but it wasn’t a perfect match,” Osterhaus added.
McClintock said aside from raising money for his own surgery, increasing awareness for organ donation is a huge goal of theirs.
“Sure I need a heart now but there are thousands like me coming behind me. My wait has been 2 1/2 years for a heart and that’s too long,” said McClintock. “We want to help make that wait time less and less– closest to zero days as possible.”
According to Iowa Donor Network data, a new person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. As of May 1, 713 Iowans were waiting for a new organ, with the majority (623) needing a kidney and 40 needing a heart.
Osterhaus said multiple factors, including blood type and body shape, could contribute to a longer waiting period for McClintock. His height, and a concave chest cavity, make the perfect match harder to find.
“Not only does he need a taller donor, so to speak, but he has a smaller space,” she said. “It’s kind of one of those perfect storms.”
According to Donate Life’s 2016 annual report, 66 percent of Iowans age 18 and up are designated donors. Osterhaus said she’d liked to see legislation advocating for implied donors, with an option to opt out, versus the elective registration via an Iowa driver’s license.
“You’re burying something that’s incredibly valuable that people don’t recognize,” she said.
For McClintock, the wait for that precious gift continues and is nearing 1,000 days, but he’s hopeful for himself and others on the list.
“It’s getting better,” he said of the process. “I just want to increase the awareness that it’s important to register as an organ donor.”
Pro-Fit gym in Coralville will also be offering date night childcare to raise money for McClintock on Friday, June 9, at 770 Quarry Rd. Organizers suggest a $10 donation per child.
View Eric’s fundraising page at onemission.fund/support/erics-change-of-heart, and follow Eric’s Change of Heart on Facebook.