For his birthday, teen-ager wants a new heart Crownsville youth, afflicted since birth, needs a transplant

November 02, 1995|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Lacy Chenoweth turns 16 on Nov. 14, and the best gift he could receive is a new heart.

With a transplant, the Crownsville teen-ager could start life anew.

"I'd be celebrating two birthdays in one," said Lacy, who has been kept out of his sophomore year at Old Mill High School because of operations. Then, "every year, I could remember that when I turned 16, I got a new heart."

This Saturday, Studio Salon of Annapolis is sponsoring a cut-a-thon from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to raise money for Lacy's heart transplant operation.

He was put on the list of transplant hopefuls after a sixth open-heart operation in September failed to solve his problems. Now, he's waiting for the next available heart. He could get it tomorrow or next month. No one knows.

Lacy is optimistic.

"I feel it will be very successful," he said. "I know when they call me and say, 'Your heart is here,' I'm going to have a heart attack."

Lacy suffers from Fallot's tetralogy, a heart condition that afflicts one of every million children.

The condition is characterized by a hole between the pumping chambers of the heart, which obstructs the blood flow to the lungs. To make Lacy's blood rich in oxygen, doctors performed an operation on his arteries to correct the problem when he was 13 months old, said his father, Gary Chenoweth. As a result, Lacy's pulse cannot be taken in his right arm, his father said.

Despite the operation, his health problems continued. At age 5, Lacy and his father went to Birmingham, Ala., where a surgeon patched the hole in Lacy's heart. At 10, Lacy underwent his third open-heart operation to unclog heart valves attached. Complications sent him back into surgery within 12 hours.

In August, doctors operated on Lacy again, this time to repair and replace two more valves. The cure almost killed him. His heart rate shot up but dropped to normal after a sixth open-heart operation to attach a "ventricle assist" machine.

After that operation, doctors found more blockage and irreparable muscle damage around Lacy's heart. Fearing he could not survive another operation, they put him on the heart transplant list. The operation will be performed at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The health problems have taken a toll on Lacy. Because his heart could not pump fast enough, his liver swelled with blood. He had an operation last month to relieve the swelling.

He weighed 102 pounds before the August operation. Afterward, he weighed 89 pounds. Since then he has gained five pounds. Still, at almost 6 feet, he is pale and gaunt.

Lacy's condition has affected those around him. The strain broke up the family, said Mr. Chenoweth, who has spent about $4,000 out of his own pocket for Lacy's operations. The rest of the hospital bills have been paid for by medical assistance and various children's funds. The September operation cost $66,000.

Mr. Chenoweth said he has used up his leave time, vacation time and sick time for the next few years to be at the hospital with his son. He is also taking care of his eldest son, Gary Jr., 17, who had a brain tumor removed seven years ago and is in a wheelchair.

Lacy's spirits have been bolstered by the kindness of strangers. Numerous get-well cards arrive in the mail. A neighbor organized a group to pray for his health. And he tries to live a typical teen-ager's life.

Before his operation in August, he played touch football and street and ice hockey. He loves to watch the Baltimore Bandits and the Washington Capitals. Although his playing days would appear to be over, he still dreams of playing for a prominent college hockey team and a professional ice hockey team.

"I have a feeling that when I do get my heart, I can play ice hockey," he said. "I'll be so happy."

To make a donation or send a card to Lacy, mail all correspondence to Lacy Chenoweth, 47 Summerhill Park, Crownsville 21032.

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