November 13, 2003-
With $10,000 Already Raised, Transplant Tot Needs More Help
by Bryan Joiner, South Queens Editor November 13, 2003
Members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Old Mill Yacht Club present Eugene and Vera Bucalo (r.) a $10,000 check to help with grandson Christian’s medical bills. The three-year-old underwent heart transplant surgery in September.
Three-year-old Christian Bucalo is in a Pittsburgh hospital after heart transplant surgery in September, but no one is resting in the fight to help his family pay off nearly two years of medical bills.
Last Saturday night, over 150 people packed the Old Mill Yacht Club in Howard Beach for a doo wop dance party fundraiser for the Bucalo family and presented Christian’s grandparents with a $10,000 check. The money will help the Bucalos pay off the nearly $300,000 they have spent fighting Christian’s rare heart disease for two years.
Old Mill Yacht Club Captain Joe “Bud” Russo has promised to raise at least another $10,000 for the Christian Bucalo Heart Fund, which he is running through the club. “We are delighted at the outpouring of support, but it’s an ongoing thing until we reach our goal. For Christian, it was a touch-and-go situation, but now he’s holding his own,” he said.
Christian’s grandmother Vera Bucalo, who will visit Pittsburgh with her husband in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, was humbled by the support from the community. “It’s absolutely outstanding. I’m overwhelmed. To see such an outpouring of love and concern is a beautiful thing,” she said.
Christian suffered from cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscle, eventually rendering parts of the heart useless. It is a rare disease, but even rarer in small children. According to his grandmother, he is only the 15th child in the world to have surgery for this illness.
Vera Bucalo is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Old Mill Yacht Club, and her husband, Christian’s grandfather Eugene “Bucky” Bucalo, is a member of the club. He was a longtime resident of East New York and Woodhaven and was a firefighter for many years at Engine 159 in Howard Beach before retiring to Long Island.
Christian’s parents, Eugene and Jennifer Bucalo, are with their son at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where the surgery was performed. He is undergoing rejection tests every two weeks to ensure the body accepts the new heart.
Christian checked into the hospital on September 19th, and the next day a family at the hospital took their child off life support for the purpose of giving his heart to Christian. The Bucalos went to Pittsburgh after consulting with doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The Pittsburgh hospital is the only facility that can transplant both the heart and bone marrow, which increases the chances that the body will accept the new organ. Christian’s parents also visited Europe and hospitals in Texas and Michigan before deciding on Children’s Hospital.
To donate money for Christian, send a check to the Christian Bucalo Heart Fund at the Old Mill Yacht Club, 163-15 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, NY 11414.