Update: ‘Victor’s Heart’

Victor and his wife Estella say that his heart condition has been particularly difficult for their two young daughters, Ailin, 10, and Yaretzi, 5.
Joel Dyer

“I think better things are going to come,” Victor says this week, after finding out the crowdsourcing page raising funds to get him health insurance, and therefore the heart transplant he so desperately needs, has exceeded its goal. “I now have more options.”

Boulder Weekly spoke with Victor and his wife, Estella, for the Nov. 29 cover story “Victor’s heart,” which chronicled the challenges their family faces to get Victor the medical care he needs given his immigration status and lack of health insurance. Since the story ran, the Boulder County community has contributed more than $10,500 to Victor’s GoFundMe page.

“When we first opened the GoFundMe we didn’t think anyone was going to support it,” Victor says. “I’m so thankful for everything that’s been helping me, and thanks to God, everything will work out.”

From Guatemala, Victor has lived in Longmont since 1999, when he was 17. He was diagnosed with severe cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, which consequently leads to a long list of other health issues, in 2005. Shortly after, he married Estella, whom Victor (now 36) knew in Guatemala, and the couple has two young daughters, Ailin, 10, and Yaretzi, 5. In recent years, his condition has worsened, leaving him unable to work and the family unable to afford private health insurance on Estella’s salary from working multiple fast-food jobs.

Doctors have told Victor and Estella that a heart transplant is his only real chance at survival, but without the ability to access public benefits or the funds for private insurance, he hasn’t been able to get on the transplant list. Hopefully, that’s all going to change. Victor and Estella have a meeting this week with a health insurance broker, and if he can apply by Dec. 15, with the ability to pay the first installment, he’ll be able to use it starting Jan. 1. He hopes to use the insurance first to get on the transplant list, then for an electrical shock that will stabilize the abnormal beating of his heart for three months, followed by getting a heart pump installed, which will buy him a few years while he waits for a new heart. The money couldn’t have come fast enough, Victor says, pausing to catch his breath.

“I’m really agitated and with even the littlest walks I’m out of breath, and I need an electric shock because with that I’ll feel a little better,” Victor says.

“Although Victor would never show you that he is in pain or feels that his heart is beating abnormally, he said he didn’t sleep for two nights last week,” says Nick Robles, a former neighbor who organized the fundraiser. Robles intends to keep the fundraiser open to help cover Victor’s out-of-pocket and deductible costs, and he’s updating the site with more information about Victor’s condition as it comes in.

“I received help for a medical condition from my community (Lyons, CO) in the ’80’s before GoFundMe existed. It was such a blessing. Let’s do this!!” Lillian Chatham wrote on the site just after Thanksgiving.

Community members flocked to the site in recent weeks, contributing amounts from $15-$1,000, and leaving messages of support, as well as calls to action.

“We can’t help everyone, but we can help one,” Harry and Sally Hempy wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are NOT enough, but maybe some dollars will help.”

Update: On Aug. 7, 2019, Victor underwent heart transplant surgery. Read more here

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