Fetal Heart Population Event

On Tuesday July 26th Harboring Hearts joined efforts with the Mount Sinai Pediatrics Team to host a “Fetal Heart Population” pop-up event. The Fetal Heart Population consisted of a panel from Mount Sinai, personalized care packages for the families, a lunch-in, and arts & crafts activities for children.

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The Mount Sinai team on the panel consisted of a diverse group of experts, including physicians and lactation consultants who provided key advice and personal experience to pregnant mothers and those with newborns. In addition to the panel, nutritionist and first time mother Peggy Kotsopoulos joined us to provide her personal experience with congenital heart issues.

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Our care packages for mothers and children included Peggy’s book, healthy snack bars, protein powder, a Terri coupon, bandanas, soap, hand sanitizer, baby bottles, baby bibs, baby wash clothes, and much much more! Thank you to Vega, Terri, Watermelon Water for generously donating and contributing to our care packages. The families were very delighted to receive them and put them to use!



We are very excited to already start planning the next Fetal Heart Population event at Mount Sinai in November! Stay tuned for more details so you can join us next time. Thank you to everyone who made the event possible, and for making it a big success!

For all pictures, visit our Flickr! LIKE us on Facebook for more events and follow us on Twitter for live updates!

Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Heart Disease

I was born with a congenital heart defect—two in fact! I have Ebstein’s anomaly VSD. Ebstein’s anomaly is a deformation of my right ventricle, while a VSD is a hole in the wall of my heart’s two lower chambers. What does this mean for me? Fortunately, not much. I’ve had two surgeries so far to improve my health, and both have gone well. I’m not restricted from any physical activities, and I’m not even on any medication.

I’m very lucky. Not everyone with heart disease is so fortunate. I am able to walk to my office every day, but some people with heart disease are so ill, they’re completely unable to work at all. If this describes you or a loved one, there could be financial resources available for your family. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for people with heart disease who are unable to work.

Types of Programs Available for People with Heart Disease:

There are two forms of Social Security disability benefits. Medically qualifying for both will be exactly the same with heart disease; however, each program does have its own technical qualifications.

The first type of disability benefits is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is only available for adults aged 18-66 who have worked throughout their lives and paid Social Security taxes. The SSA evaluates how much you’ve worked with an earned income called a “work credit.” While the amount of income you need to have contributed to taxes varies depending on your age, most SSDI applicants will qualify if they’ve worked at least part-time for any five of the past ten years.

The other form of disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people of all ages, but is only available to the most needy families. This means that if you or a spouse earns a living wage, you will not be able to qualify for SSI as an adult.

If your child has a heart problem and needs disability income, your household income will be evaluated. While childhood SSI income limits are not as strict as adult SSI limits, it may be hard for your son or daughter to qualify for SSI due to technical limitations. For example, a single parent with one child cannot be earning more than around $36,000 per year to qualify. If you have a spouse or other children, your SSI household income limit will be higher. You can determine whether or not your household income is too high for SSI by using a chart on the SSA’s website.

Medically Qualifying with Heart Disease:

If you want to qualify for disability benefits for heart disease, you will need to meet a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is a medical guide containing hundreds of disabilities and the exact symptoms or test results you’ll need to qualify.

Some qualifying conditions for adults include:

Conditions listed in the children’s version of the Blue Book include:

Each listing is complicated and requires various medical tests. For example, both heart failure listings require that your cardiologists test your tachycardia (rapid heart rate) at rest, and your ability to exercise. Other conditions, such as CHD, require cardiac imaging or catheterization that prove your oxygen levels are low due to your CHD. Because the entire Blue Book is available online, you can speak with your doctor about your heart disease’s listing and determine whether or not your medically qualify.

Some conditions are clearly disabling and will not require as much medical evidence to qualify. One such procedure is a heart transplant. If you or your child receives a heart transplant, you will automatically medically qualify for disability benefits for at least 12 months. After one year, the SSA will revaluate your claim and determine if you are ill enough to continue receiving benefits.

How to Apply for Disability Benefits:

There are two ways to apply for disability benefits: Either online, or at your nearest SSA office. If you’ve worked in the past and are applying for yourself, you can apply entirely online. If you are applying on behalf of your child, you will need to schedule an appointment at your nearest SSA office. You can do so by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

If your claim is initially rejected, do not give up! The vast majority of initial applications are denied, but there is a thorough appeals process available to you and your family. Nearly 50% of appealed claims are eventually approved.

This article was provided by Deanna Power, Director of Community Outreach at Social Security Disability Help. She specializes in helping potential applicants determine whether or not they medically qualify for benefits. If you need any help with your claim, or have any questions about the article, feel free to contact her at drp@ssd-help.org.


Patient Support Group With Meditation

On Wednesday July 13th, the Harboring Hearts team joined Mount Sinai for their Patient Support Group with patients and caregivers. The support group of 25 patients and 10 caregivers were provided a safe space to share their personal stories and uplifting advice from their heart procedures. Mount Sinai social workers led the discussion and attendees created a very positive and nurturing environment in the room, making everyone to feel loved and special.

Following the 45 minute group discussion, professional yoga instructor and friend of Harboring Hearts, Jeny Miller led a meditation session to create a therapeutic ambiance in the room. She wrote a personal positive message for individuals to repeat aloud in order to maintain positivity in their everyday routine. Please see below for her meditation passage and be sure to incorporate it into your lifestyle as well.

“My breath is the source of my life.
Light guides me away from darkness and I am supported by love.
I honor my life and those whom I adore.
I am filled with compassion, empathy and openness to receive.
I take time and leisure to see beauty that surrounds me.
I have a powerful mind to heal my being.
I have strength and possibilities to make healthy choices.
I enjoy contentment and silence in the present moment.
May I live in safety free from danger.
May I live in freedom from negativity.
I am here.”

Jennifer A. Miller
FB/IG Jennifer Ann Miller Yoga

Thank you to Mount Sinai, Jeny, and all of the attendees that participated and shared their personal stories that day! LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more updates!

H4H Aijanee & Yolanda

On Wednesday June 29th, 2016 Harboring Hearts hosted the second Hope 4 Hearts Day (H4H) for 16 year old Aijanee, and her mom Yolanda. The family was first introduced to Harboring Hearts in 2011 as Aijanee was undergoing procedures to improve her heart conditions. Since then, Aijanee’s health has significantly improved and we felt it was the perfect time to provide her with a fun personalized day.


The family was picked up at their home, and joined the Harboring Hearts team in front of the American Doll Place near Rockefeller Center. Aijanee’s day of adventure began with seeing more than 100 different dolls and themed characters in the shop. After much consideration, she picked a doll that closely resembled herself along with fun accessories to dress the doll up in!

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Following the doll shopping, the family was escorted to Times Square where they privately enjoyed lunch. Afterwards, Aijanee and her mom watched The Angry Birds movie and did some sightseeing in Times Square.


Hope 4 Hearts Day is a newly established program that aims to provide a day of personalized attention and activities for one heart patient and their family every month. We aim to provide a day of hope and inspiration to heart patients as 65% of patients experience some form of depression post surgery. If you’re an organization interested in donating tickets or services for our upcoming H4H, please email info@harboringhearts.org

For more pictures, visit Flickr. Show some love to our H4H families by commenting on our Facebook and make sure to follow us on Twitter for live updates!

IMPACT Day with Deloitte

On Friday June 10th the Harboring Hearts team joined efforts with Deloitte for their annual IMPACT Day! With more than 15 volunteers, we hosted three intricate activities to create care packages for patients with newborn babies at Montefiore Medical Center.


We began the community event bright and early, starting off with icebreakers to learn more about each other. After brief introductions, the Harboring Hearts team thoroughly discussed the goal for partnering with Deloitte, and our mission for the day for creating 40 care packages.


Our three activities consisted of a DIY baby blanket, sewing stuffed animals, and creating a planting pot package. Deloitte volunteers worked in teams to make 14 of each craft! There was a great sense of community in the room as everyone helped one another, and built a bond for giving back together.


Along with the three crafts, there were more than ten pre-packaged travel size items we included in the care packages. The items provided were hand sanitizer, lotion, shampoo, soap, pens, notebooks, baby bottles, personally written thank you cards, and much more. Additionally, Deloitte volunteers received the opportunity to hand deliver the care packages to the patients in their rooms, making the whole experience even more special.

A big shout out to everyone that made this collaboration very successful! We look forward to more partnership opportunities with Deloitte in the near future.

For more pictures, visit our Flickr. Share your thoughts and comments on the Harboring Hearts Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for live updates!

Hope 4 Hearts Day: Gambini Family

Harboring Hearts launched its first “Hope 4 Hearts Day” this past Saturday, May 14th 2016 with the Gambini family. Hope 4 Hearts Day (H4H) was established to create a personalized day of adventure and activities for a family in New York City. Our mission is to provide hope and inspiration for the patient and their family, as 66% of out-patients experience some form of depression post heart surgery.  


Harboring Hearts was first introduced to the Gambini family in 2012, where at 13 years old, Brandon was recovering from heart surgery. Ever since then, the Gambini family has held a special place in our hearts. It was an honor for the Harboring Hearts Team to launch H4H with a personalized day for Brandon and his family.


The Gambini family was picked up in a car service and brought to Times Square, where the family eagerly entered Madame Tussuad’s Wax Museum. Inside the family enjoyed walking around and taking pictures with their favorite actors and singers. Tupac and Hulk were some of Brandon’s personal favorites, as they looked so real to the actual person! The family also enjoyed a short animated 4D film with 3D glasses as they were getting poked from inside the chair! Before leaving, the family had their name engraved in an Oscar souvenir it for a great lasting memory of the day.


Following the museum, the family watched one of Brandon’s favorite superhero movies; Captain America in 3D.  In the evening, the family had a fun dinner together and was then picked up in a car service to go home.  We are so happy to have provided a fun day of activity and bonding time for Brandon and his family.
To view all of the pictures from this Saturday’s H4H, visit Flickr. Show some love for the Gambini family on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on our next H4H Day!  


Heart Party At Montefiore Medical Center

On Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Harboring Hearts joined the Family Learning Center and Pediatric Cardiology Department at Montefiore Medical Center to host a Heart Party for more than 100 children and family members.


The party began at 4pm with a long and eager line of attendees, who were provided with Harboring Hearts goodie bags to collect prizes inside throughout the party. Guests entered the party to find the hall full of bright heart decorations everywhere! Inside there were three activity stations to keep guests active, with stations including arts and crafts, photo booth with props, and healthy in-kind snacking options. Our healthy cookies were generously provided by Enjoy Life Foods, and Chia bars by Healthy Warrior, who believe in supporting and encouraging better healthy snacking options for children without sacrificing delicious taste. Montefiore former patient Maria interacted with children to donate her own handmade woven hats. Additionally, HoneyBirds Playschool in BedStuy, Brooklyn made personalized hearts crafts for kids to take home.

The party was hosted with DJ Temple who played live upbeat music to get children off their feet, leading to a fun dance-off with Captain America. Children danced eagerly to trendy songs such as “Watch Me (Whip/NaeNae) by artist Silento, and won raffle prizes provided by Montefiore staff.


By the time we geared towards the end of the party at 6pm, children had collected an array of gifts and prizes! Everyone displayed their artistic masterpieces with painted cut-out hearts from the arts and craft table, silly pictures with Captain America from the photo booth and heart balloons to take home after the party!


Harboring Hearts is honored to collaborate with Montefiore Medical Center to provide children and their families a day full of fun activities to bring a smile on their faces. We look forward to upcoming events in the near future and making more hearts smile one at a time.

Watch patients and families have fun in this video clip by Bronx Net News.

For all pictures, visit our Flickr.

Valentine’s Reunion Party 2014 at Mount Sinai Hospital

Harboring Hearts was thrilled to team up with The Children’s Heart Fund, Project Sunshine, and Mount Sinai Hospital to celebrate the 28th Annual Valentine’s Reunion Party on February 18th. Lined with over a dozen activity tables, the Annenberg West Lobby came alive with the spirit of Heart Month as children enjoyed heart-healthy foods, crafts, and games.


Valentine's Reunion Party 2014


Harboring Hearts staff, interns, and volunteers had their hands full, managing a buffet catered by Pret A MangerKIND and GoGo squeeZ, which fed over 450 party-goers!


Valentine's Reunion Party 2014


The heart health community had a blast as children posed with their families and doctors at the photo booth. While some children flaunted their moves on the dance floor, others waited in excitement for a chance to greet special guest Miss Teen USA.


Valentine's Reunion Party 2014


From making heart healthy trail mixes to decorating piggy-banks and creating sand art, families left Mount Sinai with Harboring Hearts’ tote bags brimming with healthy treats and hand-made crafts.


Valentine's Reunion Party 2014


As with every community event, the Harboring Hearts team came away further inspired through meeting the many great patients and families who attended. For more pictures from the event, check out our photo album. Be sure to like Harboring Hearts on Facebook and follow our Twitter to stay in the loop about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities!

Special thanks to Sunny Norton for capturing great photographs of this exciting day!

Harboring Hearts Charity Ride Recap

Thank you for working out and sweating with me at the Charity Ride to benefit Harboring Hearts this past Sunday, January 26th!  With your support, we raised nearly $2,000!  Harboring Hearts and I are truly grateful.

The funds raised through these types of events support Harboring Hearts’ initiatives to provide emotional and financial support to vulnerable heart patients and their families in dire need of our assistance.  As I briefly mentioned at the event, we are providing a need not being met by other organizations.  Our goal for 2014 is to increase our impact within the NYC cardiac community.  We will accomplish this, with the help of your donations, by increasing our community reach through hospital events and fully utilizing our Emergency Fund Program.

If you are interested in making a donation to Harboring Hearts, please visit https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/harboringhearts or contact us at info@harboringhearts.org

By the way, check out some awesome pics from our event here at our Facebook page!

Yuki Kotani
Harboring Hearts Co-Founder


Be #KIND: Vote for Harboring Hearts!


This month vote your heart out for Harboring Hearts! We are currently in the running to receive $10,000 from KIND Healthy Snacks that will go towards our Community Program for adult and pediatric heart patients and their families and caregivers.

To date, our Community Program has benefited more than 1,500 patients and their families, offering essential respite from daily medical routines. Should we win, we will launch a new component in the Community Program aimed at enhancing the long-term health of participants. This may include: health education, integrative therapy for adult patients and caregivers, or sessions on healthy eating and food preparation with a dietician.

Voting is easy and just requires one click at http://projects.kindsnacks.com/project/harboring-hearts to make a difference in the lives of heart patients around NYC! Voting will continue now through December 31st, so be sure to cast your vote and spread the word out to friends and family, too! ❤