10/22/06 — Fund-raiser planned for teacher recovering from transplant

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Fund-raiser planned for teacher recovering from transplant

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on October 22, 2006 2:01 AM

When friends and neighbors discovered Sandra Tart, a Rosewood Middle School teacher, needed a heart transplant, they did more than say a prayer for her, they sprang into action.

Not only did they take start helping with out chores while she was in the hospital, they began planning a big fund-raiser to help her pay her medical bills.

A benefit dinner will be held Saturday at the Rosewood Volunteer Fire Department to help raise money. A turkey dinner is planned from 3 until 7 p.m. People can eat in or take out. Cost is $6 per plate, and tickets can be purchased by calling 920-8061 or 222-5457.

More than 100 people have already volunteered to help with the event. The goal, organizers say, is to sell 5,000 tickets and, after expenses, net $25,000.

One of the costs they thought they would be facing has already been taken care of -- an anonymous donor has offered to contribute as many as 144 turkeys.

That's a lot of drumsticks.

In addition, about 200 people have volunteered to contribute cakes. The planners of the fund-raiser are hoping for another 100 before Saturday.

Rosewood First Baptist Church is leading the fund-raising effort, and other churches in the Rosewood and Grantham communities are lending a hand. In addition, all three schools in Rosewood are involved, as are the Rosewood and Oakland fire departments.

"I've been involved in a lot of volunteer things, but never quite something like this where so many people were involved and helping out," volunteer Peggy Meyer said.

What drives a community to come together with such resolve?

Organizers say it is the way Ms. Tart has become a part of so many lives in the Rosewood area.

A math and science teacher at Rosewood Middle School for 19 years and an active member at Rosewood First Baptist, "Sandra has been a blessing for us," volunteer Janice said.

And Rosewood has always been a tight-knit community, others pointed out.

"The Rosewood community always comes through. We've done a number of benefits during the years, and it always works out. This is going to be an awesome, awesome experience for everybody. We feel it has been blessed," Mrs. Threewitts said.

Ms. Tart had her transplant in Chapel Hill on July 17 and is doing well, but recovery is long and expensive. In addition to the operation and medication costs, she is on dialysis three days a week -- something she hopes is temporary. But there will be long-running medical costs, including anti-rejection medication she will have to take the rest of her life.

Ms. Tart, 47, comes from a family that has a strong history of heart trouble. Her mother died when Ms. Tart was 4 years old and her sister died after having a heart transplant several couple of years ago.

Ms. Tart got her first pacemaker when she was just 19, and her daughter, Caroline, has had to have one. She is 15.

Despite having a heart problem, Ms. Tart did not think she would ever face having to have a transplant. However, a couple of years ago, she began to wonder.

She was "struggling some and thought, 'I'll be there'" as she watched her sister's battle with the surgery.

Ms. Tart's sister put off having the transplant until too late, Ms. Tart says.

"Her surgery was on Mother's Day," she says. "On July 23, we finally cut off life support for her. After watching her go through that I said, 'If this ever happens to me, I won't do it.'"

As her condition worsened, however, Ms. Tart sought guidance through prayer. She said she came to realize that she was actually in a win-win situation.

She decided to have the surgery because she wanted to be with her children, Caroline and son Stephen, 18. If she didn't survive, she says, she would get to be with God and with the family members she loved who were no longer alive.

"When I went into surgery, I was totally at peace," she says.

Each day since she has gotten a little stronger. Support from family and friends has been important, she said. And the work that is going into Saturday's dinner is giving her even more strength, she said.

"I was totally overwhelmed," she says. "I told everyone there that the words 'thank-you' seem insignificant. I'm totally blessed."