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A MOTHER’S STORY:Finding Angels on Earth

Shameka is the mother of three: 14-year-old twins Ava and Amber, and their older brother Malachi, age 15. In 2023 Amber was diagnosed at 13 with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a disorder in which the heart’s main pumping chamber is enlarged. Shameka shares how Friends of Karen has been there for her family.

“Amber came to me complaining of chest pains which I thought were gas pains. When that did not go away, we went to the emergency room and she had some tests. The ER doctor arranged for her to be transferred to the children’s hospital where she was in the Intensive Care Unit. There, they found that only one of the four chambers of Amber’s heart was working, and her condition meant she needed a heart transplant to survive.

Before the transplant she needed two other surgeries, so many medications, and her care involved 23 doctors. At the time, I was working with patients as an anesthesia tech trainee in a hospital, but seeing your own child in the hospital with so many tubes in her was different and difficult. It was overwhelming but I knew I had to trust the doctors to help Amber, and she agreed to proceed with the surgery.

The hospital social worker could see that it was a lot to cope with, so I was referred to Friends of Karen. I was matched with their social worker Alyssa, who was amazing because she arranged for Friends of Karen to help pay my rent and telephone bill, and the kids got holiday gifts and school supplies. Having Alyssa there for me is like a friend that is always taking time to listen and give advice and never judges. That kind of caring takes a strong spirit and not everyone is built for that.

Without Friends of Karen, I would be more stressed, and we probably would have been put out of our apartment. After I completed their application, everything fell into place. With Friends of Karen, things happened quickly so I never got behind on my bills. I did not have to worry about food because they gave me gift cards to the supermarket where I shop. We also had other emotional support to help us cope from their child life specialist Jenn.

It is amazing to see how much the surgery has helped Amber. She is full of energy now, and she likes to spend time cooking and baking with her twin sister Ava. She’s back in school now, so things are getting back to normal.

I am thankful that Friends of Karen gave me peace in a troubled time while Amber was fighting for her life. They truly care about families and made sure I could focus on Amber, and it gave me time to be with my kids. Friends of Karen is truly like having angels on earth.”