March 09, 2013 3:30 am • By Chris Zavadil/Fremont Tribune
Alma Martinez makes the drive to Omaha every day.
Her daughter needs her, and there’s no place else she would be.
With Jazmin Martinez hooked to a life support system at the University of Nebraska Medical Center since Valentine’s Day, Alma Martinez is at her side, hoping and praying for the heart transplant that will keep her daughter alive.
A 14-year-old freshman at Fremont High School, Jazmin has had heart problems before, but never like this.
At a younger age, she was diagnosed with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, explained Denise Diaz, Alma’s sister and Jazmin’s aunt.
The condition, in which the heart muscle becomes thick, can make it difficult for blood to leave the heart, forcing the heart to pump harder.
“They found that out when I think she was 7 (years old),” Diaz said, “so they put a defibrillator in her heart.
Diaz described her as “truly the sweetest girl,” someone who volunteers at church, babysits and loves to read.
“She likes to do things for everybody,” Diaz said.
“She was fine up until now, and then all of a sudden, around Jan. 21, she started getting sick. We thought it was the flu. She was at Children’s Hospital for two weeks, then they let her go,” she said.
After being home for just one day, Martinez noticed her daughter had swelling in her back and stomach, and took her back to the hospital.
“They did more tests and they finally found out her heart was like heart failure,” Diaz said.
“On Feb. 14, that’s when they told my sister she needed a heart transplant. She’s been in there since then,” she said. “Nobody expected for it to be this severe.”
Doctors, Diaz said, told them Jazmin could be on life support for a month.
The close-knit family and friends were suddenly jolted into a waiting game that nobody wanted.
“She’ll wake up, she’ll open her eyes and she knows we’re there,” Diaz said. “We’ll talk to her and ask her questions and she’ll say yes or no. She is on life support though.
“It’s very stressful for my sister,” Diaz said. “Our family is extremely close.”
Martinez, devoting all of her time to her daughter, has been unable to work as a dental assistant since the ordeal began. Her husband, Eduardo Martinez, is a roofer and this is the off-season.
The family also has one son in college and another son is 7 years old.
Neighbors, family and friends are putting together a series of fund raisers to help the family cope with day-to-day and travel bills.
A bake sale is being held at the Fremont Family YMCA this weekend. Baked goods and bracelets are being sold 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 12:30-4 p.m. Sunday.
A spaghetti feed will be held 4-7 p.m. March 16 at Salem Lutheran Church, 401 E. Military Ave., and an account was set up at Fremont National Bank.
“It costs a lot to run a household with kids, especially one in college, and they’ve got a boy in the second grade,” said Theresa Christ, a neighbor and close friend.
Martinez is unable to stay at the hospital each night, so she goes home and returns the next day, “so she’s got a lot of expense traveling back and forth to Omaha,” Christ said.
“Her medical bills are covered, this is for everyday expenses,” she said.
“Now is the time for our community to come together and help raise money for the Martinez family. Jazmin is a great member of our community,” she said.
“My youngest sister, Olga, is constantly with my sister,” Diaz said. “She’s like her support system, kind of trying to do these fundraiser things to get some money, and Theresa’s helping, she has been great since the beginning. We each kind of took a role.”
A Facebook page, JazminsPrayerAndCarePage, was set up as a place where people can offer prayers and well wishes.
Diaz said the family also is encouraging people to become organ and blood donors.
A regular blood donor herself, Diaz said she never considered being an organ donor before, “but that sounds dumb now. I know this has changed my way of thinking.”
At any given time, about 500 Nebraskans are on the organ donor waiting list, according to the Nebraska Organ Recovery website. Statistically, about 50 Nebraskans die each year without receiving the life-saving procedure they need, the website says.