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Soquel teen awaits heart transplant – Santa Cruz Sentinel

By Kara Guzman

Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED:   09/23/2013 06:26:22 PM PDT

Soquel teen awaits heart transplant - Santa Cruz Sentinel

Gavin Jack spent time with his father, Tony, brothers Kyle and Owen, and friend Garrett… ( SCS )

SANTA CRUZ — Four children wearing “4 Gavin” T-shirts stood in the rain Saturday, at 41st Avenue and Portola Drive, waving signs and directing cars to a rummage sale fundraiser for Soquel teen Gavin Jack.

Since Aug. 18, doctors at Stanford Hospital have opened Jack’s chest three times and performed 10 surgical procedures to save his heart. Jack, a 2013 Soquel High graduate, was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a genetic heart condition, in October 2011 and awaits a heart transplant once his strength returns.

Meanwhile, friends and neighbors, who aren’t allowed to visit yet, have shown their support by organizing community fundraisers.

Lucas Hale, whose son played high school football with Jack, organized the rummage sale with the Pleasure Point Night Fighters surf club, which raised more than $8,000 toward the family’s expected $75,000 in medical expenses.

Local businesses donated gift cards, skateboards, autographed surfboards and art for the silent auction and raffle. “As far as the community support, man, I’m overwhelmed,” said Lucas Hale.

Hale’s son, Fabiano Hale, has known Jack since kindergarten. Fabiano Hale was with Jack at football practice in 2011 when he saw the first signs of disease.

“We were in the huddle and he fell back,” Fabiano Hale said. “I caught him and his eyes had rolled back in his head. He was shaking.”

The family brought Jack to a series of doctors before visiting Dr. Michael Tran, a pediatric cardiologist in Capitola.

Tony Jack, Gavin Jack’s father, remembers the moment Dr. Tran saw the test results. “He turned away from the screen and it was a look you could read,” said Tony Jack. “He told me Gavin’s football career was over and he was looking at a heart transplant in two to five years.”

Gavin Jack, who had hoped to play college football, instead volunteered as a coach for the JV and freshman football teams. “You could tell he was frustrated,” Fabiano Hale said. “Imagine being 17 and being told you couldn’t do the things you’d done every day.”

Gavin Jack was bound for his freshman year at UC San Diego when his heart began to fail. Tony Jack said he hopes his son can start college in two years, after his heart transplant.

Gavin Jack’s struggle inspired his Little League baseball coach, Joe Grant, to start a donations jar by the cash register at Soquel Play It Again Sports, where Grant works. Grant has raised more than $1,200 thus far.

Tony Jack is a deputy at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, and Grant said that’s part of the reason why he wanted to help.

“You spend your whole life protecting the community and there’s nothing you can do for your own child,” said Grant.

Gavin also has gained the support of the Beside the Blue foundation, a Roseville-based nonprofit that provides financial assistance for medical and funeral expenses for California law enforcement families.

Sarah Rothwell, co-founder of the foundation, started a “Team Gavin” Facebook page to raise awareness. The page has nearly 1,000 followers across the country, many of whom are heart transplant patients.

Rothwell’s 9-year-old daughter, Anjillena Pereira, and Granite Bay high school senior Kyli Olesen, have raised $4,000 for the Jack family selling bracelets and Gavin T-shirts. Rothwell said she hopes to alleviate some of the family’s stress.

“When you have an officer struggling financially and constantly worried about their loved one, the level of stress they’re under, you can’t help but have it go to work with you,” Rothwell said.

Follow Sentinel reporter Kara Guzman at

At a glance

To support GAVIN JACK

WHO: 18-year-old Soquel High graduate with ARVD (arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia), a genetic heart condition affecting 1 in 5,000 individuals. It is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death among young athletes. Symptoms include irregular or rapid heartbeats and fainting.

WHAT: Jack awaits a heart transplant at Stanford’s Lucile Packard hospital.

FOLLOW JACK: On Facebook, search for ‘Gavin Jack Cardio’ and ‘Team Gavin’

TO DONATE: visit

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