VB Gives Back

VB Gives Back: Demi Grace

February 1, 2019

Demi Grace, right, with heart-transplant recipient Izabella at the Harboring Hearts Benefit in November 2018

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. will have a heart attack. Among women, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Even more startling: two-thirds who succumb will have had no previous symptoms.

That's why it's significant to have days like National Wear Red Day—to spread awareness of heart disease. But one key component often gets left out of the spotlight in the press and on social media: Both the patients and their families need our help.

So we’re honored to support singer Demi Grace and her charity of choice, Harboring Hearts, all month long. The nonprofit's mission centers on easing the financial and emotional burdens placed on individuals, families, or caregivers during this challenging time. “I know how emotionally taxing it is for families to have to stay overnight at the hospital and witness their loved one go through so much pain,” says Grace, whose own mother battled cancer. “The support that Harboring Hearts offers is completely necessary for recipients and their families through recovery.”

Harboring Hearts is…

An organization that aids heart surgery recipients and their families in their time of operation and recovery.

And the importance of aiding both patients and their families…

Families are often put in the position of caregiver while the patient recovers—taking time off of work without pay, spending nights in the hospital, juggling life and care-giving full time, etc.

How did you become involved with the organization?

I met Michelle [Javian, the co-founder] on a flight from London to NYC. We sat next to each other and somehow started talking about health. She told me about the organization and the patients and families that it supports. It really hit home. My mom battled and won cancer three times and that conversation led to us working together to provide hope to heart patients.

Why is this cause especially important to you?

I remember my journey with my mom and the support she needed. I picked up my life and moved to Atlanta. Most of the surgeries required overnight stay; her chemo battle was really tough, causing her to even have a seizure during a session. I'm lucky I have two sisters so, among us, we were able to put in the time. I know how emotionally taxing it is for families to have to stay overnight at the hospital and witness their loved one go through so much pain, whether on the road to recovery or not. A meal, some entertainment—that means everything. So I really admire what Harboring Hearts does and knew I wanted to get involved.

A 2018 heart party at Montefiore Medical Center in New York

What kind of financial support does Harboring Hearts provide?

Temporary housing, rent/mortgage assistance, support with utilities, meals, entertainment, events—all of that takes financial support.

And when it comes to emotional support?

Fun activities, shopping, conversations—all things that give patients and their families a chance to focus their energy elsewhere. Also, most of the members of the organization who speak at these events have lived through the difficulty and that in itself is emotional support. A food-delivery program for caregivers, which allows them to remain at the bedside, allows both the patient and the caregiver to spend more time together. Harboring Hearts also partners with social-work teams to run support groups for caregivers, LVAD patients and their caregivers, fetal heart support groups, and a teen heart transplant support group. Another interesting program they have is called Hope 4 Heart Days, through which a well patient can go and spend the day in New York City and just be with their family.

What's your most memorable moment with the organization?

The November gala was the most memorable. It was wonderful performing to warm guests and meeting the families, including Izabella [pictured above] and her mom. I brought my mom and she had a wonderful time with my sisters.

Could you share some examples of the impact Harboring Hearts has made?

At the gala, I met Beth, a mother who spoke at the annual benefit and whose son required heart surgery—another memorable moment. She talked about the emotional support they received from Harboring Hearts and how it gave them strength to keep going. They also still keep in touch with the doctors that supported them. Also, artist Amy Sherald’s story is incredible. Although I, myself, am not a heart recipient, Amy’s reasons for supporting the organization are identical to mine: the support that Harboring Hearts offers is completely necessary for recipients and their families through recovery.

Words of wisdom to families going through what you did with your mother?

Constantly look at the light at the end of the tunnel, any light you can find. Look for the blessings and find ways to laugh. You're going to have times when you're going through stuff that gets really heavy, but you have to allow yourself to be light. People do make it through. When you focus on that, you'll feel that, yes, you can too.

Any other helpful tips and tools for them?

Yes! There is a very helpful link on the Harboring Hearts website here

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