Johan and Tariq's Story

Johan and Tariq’s Story

Johan and Tariq Lopez are bright, bubbly five-year-old twins who have survived nearly insurmountable odds. Both boys were diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, the same disease that claimed the life of a sister who died before they were born. With more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S., the two young boys received two life-saving hearts in 2008. The transplants have given them a second chance to live, a gift that will have an immeasurable impact on their lives. But the struggle is far from over.

Following their life-saving surgery, they and their mother Leslie had to live in the New York City shelter system for a number of months, due to lack of affordable housing. These living conditions posed significant health risks to their already vulnerable immune systems. Assistance from family in Trinidad barely covers the cost of the apartment in which they currently live in Queens, over an hour away from the hospital. The family has no car, and lives month to month on finances that barely cover rent and food.

The Lopez family is just one of a myriad of families struggling to make ends meet while facing life-threatening heart transplant and cardiac surgeries.

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Gabrielle’s Story

“I must say that our family is truly appreciative of your organization and its mission.  Gabrielle has been through many difficulties in the past 5 years.

Gabrielle Hawkins was born March 11, 2006, and at the age of 3 months old, she was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy.  Gabrielle has had many health battles since her initial diagnosis and has endured a long and eventful hospitalization at a children’s hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Due to her heart condition, she has suffered a stroke, which paralyzed her right side of her body and lost partial speech mobility.  She underwent an emergency gallbladder removal, had a blood clot of the brain, had a collapsed lung, had two instances of pneumonia and was ultimately placed on life supports.

On February 23, 2011, the doctors were able to perform a life-saving heart transplant.

During this time, Gabrielle’s mother was unable to work because she needed to take care of her daughter and two other children.  She has received some financial assistance from family members and a local organ transplant organization, however there were mounting rental bills for our family’s one bedroom apartment.

Harboring Hearts has helped subsidize our rent payments and it has relieved some financial stress and allowed me to concentrate on the health and emotional needs of Gabrielle and my family.

Gabrielle is currently on numerous medications and undergoes intensive cardiac rehabilitation and physical therapy in Michigan”. – Jamie Waller

If you are interested in donating to this family to help with additional medical expenses, please go to

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Jacqui’s Story

Jacqui, a mother from Little Ferry, NJ is just one of the many who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Jackie’s life is full of responsibilities-she is receiving treatment for cancer, and is also caring for her three children during her separation from her husband. In addition, Jacqui’s 13 year-old son Brandon had received a heart transplant in 2010 and is continuing his treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital.

After the storm, Jackie’s home was completely flooded and unlivable. Her car was also destroyed, leaving her and her family unable to move to a safer area. Jackie and her children moved to a nearby shelter and received food from a local church and the Red Cross. Both Jacqui and Brandon’s health was deteriorating due to the unhealthy environment. Their immune systems could not handle the crowded shelter and vacillating weather. Desperate, the family moved from one friend’s house to another while both Jackie and Brandon shuttled back and forth to Mount Sinai.

During this time, Jacqui was not able to work. Her responsibilities as a mother, the flooding of her home, and her cancer treatment left her unable to pay her mortgage. This led Jacqui, a mother who takes pride in her accomplishments, to reach out for help – a step she admits is out of character for her. During a visit to the hospital, she spoke to her son’s cardiac social worker about her situation. The social worker immediately reached out to Harboring Hearts and allowed us to connect with Jacqui, Brandon, and the rest of her family. After listening to her story and learning of the many hardships she had to go through, the team at Harboring Hearts knew they had to help. Harboring Hearts provided a housing grant allowing Jackie and her family to keep their home and lessen their financial burden.

Zion's Story

Zion’s Story

At the beginning of Summer 2014, 6-year-old Zion was in the ICU and listed for a heart transplant. Surgery was reported to be complex, yet he is now doing very well and even “surprised” the medical team. The parents have two other children, ages 13 and 16, and the father recently started a new job. Harboring Hearts assisted with their July rent payment of $800 and covered their stay at the Ronald McDonald House post-discharge until they were medically cleared to travel home to upstate New York. In November, Harboring Hearts coordinated efforts with social work staff at NYP to help the family locate, fund, and transition into a long-term, affordable housing situation.

“We have been able to heal better because we have had less stress on our minds. If I had to worry about where we were going to stay, I wouldn’t be able to focus on healing, I’d still be hurting.”



Daquain’s Story

After undergoing a life-saving cardiac procedure, Harboring Hearts helped to relieve costs associated with Daquain Jenkins’ stay at the Transplant Living Center. In the event of an emergency, Jenkins would be a short distance from the hospital, which, according to Jenkins, helped reduce stress during healing. “In and out of the hospital, having a lot of stress on my family, and stress on me — it’s been an extremely long journey,” says Daquain. Careful not to overexert himself physically, Daquain has taken it upon himself to study web design and interactive media. A two-time heart transplant recipient, Daquain is a dear friend of Harboring Hearts, who is excited to be back home with his family. Harboring Hearts was thrilled to have the Jenkins family at our 2014 Summer Soiree, where Daquain shared his story of inspiration.

Izabella's Story

Izabella’s Story

Evelyn’s 2-year-old daughter, Izabella, received a heart transplant when she was 17-months-old. Evelyn, mother of 5, lives in Flushing, Queens and is originally from the Dominican Republic. Harboring Hearts met Evelyn and Izabella at one of our community events, and since then they have been an integral part of our growing heart support community. Evelyn and Izabella often attend Harboring Hearts’ hospital community events, where they enjoy recreational activities, while offering encouragement and support to families undergoing similar situations. Thank you Evelyn and Izabella!

“Thanks to Harboring Hearts, I had the opportunity to meet people that were experiencing the same circumstances as my baby and we learn from each other.”

  • Evelyn, mother of 2 year old heart transplant recipient