Community rallies for Holland man waiting for heart transplant likely across the country

Posted at 2:48 PM, Oct 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-23 16:53:28-04

HOLLAND, Mich. -- Mark and Brenda Andree sat together in their cozy home in Holland Monday, calmly looking ahead to their upcoming move, as they wait for a heart.

The heart transplant Mark, 57, is hoping for can only be done in a few hospitals with doctors experienced in transplants with complicated conditions. At 25 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, and though his blood cancer was cured, the month of radiation and year of chemotherapy he received damaged his organs, especially his heart.

Husband and wife Mark and Brenda Andree pictured with their two sons, Noah and Drew.

Until about 2005, he says he was living an active life, showing FOX 17 his cervelo bike he built. Andree is a husband, father of two sons, worked 30 years as a Comcast systems technician, and is an artist who entered ArtPrize four years.

"That was a lot of fun," he said.

"Now I told him to sketch his emotions in the hospital," said Brenda Andree, Mark's wife, "I bought him a sketchbook."

He underwent major heart surgery, and then in spring his fatigue intensified. Sunday Brenda said Mark walked for a couple blocks before losing energy.

"I was living a normal life," he said.

"Going to work every day, riding my bike and doing everything a normal person does, but it just got bad all of a sudden, but even after that heart surgery, things were pretty good for the last 12 years. Then I started getting symptoms again this last spring."

The Andrees say Mark's cardiologist put him on the heart transplant list, stating his heart could not undergo another major surgery. Then, the team of doctors realized Mark must go to a hospital experienced with heart transplants and his condition, and get on that regional transplant list.

"A lot of it has to do with the speed," said Mark, "the doctor wants me to get one as soon as possible. So in the Midwest you have longer wait times."

Now Mark and Brenda wait for insurance to decide whether they can get on the regional heart transplant list in Los Angeles or Minneapolis, where he will be admitted to an experienced hospital with some of the shortest wait times nationwide.

As they wait, their community is rallying support: in the last week, more than $25,000 has been raised on theirGoFundMe page. All of which will help pay for their moving and medical expenses.

"It's amazing, I never expected anything, or this much this fast," said Mark. "So many people coming forward."

"We call Amanda our angel on earth, because seriously she will do anything to help," said Brenda, thanking their close friend and advocate who manages their GoFundMe page.

Grateful for their deep network of support and their faith, the Andrees also advocate for everyone who can to register as an organ donor as they continue to pray and wait.

"I thought, I’m not really praying for somebody else to die, I’m praying for Mark to get a heart, and I’m thankful, way in advance, that someone would be so gracious and giving to give the gift of life," said Brenda.

If you would like to help Mark and Brenda, you can visit their GoFundMe page or make a donation at any Macatawa Bank location into the account "Mark's new heart." To register as an organ donor, see this link to Donate Life America here.