‘He never gives up’: Rockport teen awaiting heart transplant gets community support

Posted Aug. 10, 2014, at 12:18 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 10, 2014, at 1:52 p.m.
Sam Clark, a 16-year-old student at Camden Hills Regional High School, is awaiting a heart transplant.
Photo courtesy of Clark family
Sam Clark, a 16-year-old student at Camden Hills Regional High School, is awaiting a heart transplant.

ROCKPORT, Maine — Sam Clark has never given up despite a heart condition he has had since birth.

And the community is rallying around the 16-year-old boy as he awaits a heart transplant.

His mother, Cathy Clark, said her son contracted a virus while she was pregnant with him. She said she was sick with a late summer flu virus and became so ill that doctors performed an emergency caesarean section on her. Sam Clark was put in the neonatal intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

She said on his fifth day at the hospital, he took a turn for the worse. He began suffering heart, liver and kidney failure from the virus. He ended up spending four months in the hospital and had received 75 blood transfusions during that period.

Cathy Clark said nurses told her that Sam Clark was the sickest baby they had seen that survived. Clark was declared the Children’s Miracle Network baby for 1997 and has since twice appeared on the Miracle Network telethon in Maine.

“You couldn’t help but root for him. He never gave up. That’s true of his personality. His teachers say he never gives up,” she said.

And the teachers will be joining in helping Clark and his family with a benefit concert. The educators rock band Just Teachers is holding a benefit concert for Clark from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the Camden Amphitheater.

Clark is entering his junior year at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport.

A gofundme online account also has been created to help the family with nonmedical expenses associated with Sam’s care. In the past 17 days, donations of $12,590 have come in toward the goal of $20,000.

Cathy Clark said she was uncomfortable at first about asking for help in this way but has been tremendously moved by the support. This is all occurring as she battles her own health problems. She was still at Maine Medical Center over the weekend suffering from an infection. She also has battled breast cancer for the past two years.

Sam Clark’s heart condition has slowly worsened over the years. This past fall, Clark was helping out the Camden Hills football team by providing water to players and keeping statistics. But that was becoming too much for him as he would get tired even standing up.

On July 30, Cathy Clark said that the family finally got the call from Boston Children’s Hospital that Sam Clark was on the formal waiting list to receive a new heart. She said doctors have told her that it could take up to a year for a heart to be available for Clark, but it also could be within a few weeks. She said he has a rare blood type — B positive — which means he is likely to get one quicker since there are fewer people on the list with that blood type. In addition, he is on the pediatric list that gets higher priority, but he has the build of an adult — 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds.

The family is fortunate that his father, Russ Clark, has good health insurance, Cathy Clark said. But travel and lodging expenses when in Boston for the frequent trips have been costly. Sam Clark must make at least weekly trips to Boston for tests as he awaits a heart.

She said Clark’s classmates also have helped out and held bake sales on his behalf.

Clark’s mother said everybody has been so supportive of her son and the family. She pointed out that she has had to miss a lot of work over the years for both Clark’s health problems as well as her own. But in the nine years she has worked at KAX Office Center in Camden, the owners, Rusty and Becky Brace, have been wonderful.

The teachers at the school have been supportive and Clark’s older brother, Matt, has been the best big brother possible. Clark’s illness has isolated him some but that has made Matt’s younger brother part of his circle of friends, and those young people have taken to Sam.

She said there will still be a long road ahead once he gets his heart but that the family expects he will regain his energy and be able to work and live a long life. She said Clark is smart and enjoys technology. He is learning disabled, brought on by a lack of oxygen from when he was suffering from his heart problem as a baby, but she said Clark is strong and wants to work.

The gofundme address for Sam Clark is http://www.gofundme.com/by70s4

 

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