HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
Gabriel Benton looks like an average, healthy 5-year-old boy.
He climbs on everything, runs his toy trucks along the floor with zeal and delights in chasing his sisters.
But deep inside Gabriel’s chest is a life-threatening problem — nearly 40 holes in the lining of his heart, including several large holes need attention and the drug that could save his life is not covered by medical insurance.
An Ashtabula County resident and single mother of three, Alexis Benton said the drug mixture of digoxin and furosemide, which will hopefully prolong Gabriel’s impending need for a heart transplant, is considered “experimental” and is therefore not covered by insurance. The shots — all 14 of them — cost $110 each and must be administered by specialists at the Cleveland Clinic.
“He could have surgery, but his heart is strong and still growing, and there are so many holes, almost 40 to plug with mesh,” Alexis Benton said. “What the medication will do — this new trial drug — helps regulate the heartbeat and keeps fluid from building up behind the holes.”
While the drug may not “fix” the atrial and ventricular septal defects in Gabriel’s heart, it may prolong need for a heart transplant, she said.
“Right now, because he is so small, the transplant list is just impossible. It is very nearly impossible to get such a young heart, an exact donor heart. As he gets older, it gets so much easier to get that match,” she said. “We also hope the drug helps the holes to start healing themselves. We know the holes could get bigger and we know he could need heart surgery at any time.”
To help pay for the medication and for Gabriel’s weekly trips into Cleveland, a Ladies Night Out benefit event will be held at the Spire Institute on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The event begins at 5 p.m. with light refreshments, will include a vendor fair, makeovers and spa services from 5 to 9 p.m., a quarter auction from 8 to 9 p.m., a Pure Romance demonstration from 9 to 10 p.m. and dancing, door prizes, side boards, a 50/50 raffle and more.
Tickets are $10 if purchased in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets include a glass of champagne and a chance to win a door prize.
Alexis Benton said for now her family is trying to enjoy every moment with Gabriel and to plan for the unknowns that lie ahead.
“Gabriel is such a fun loving, caring kid. He is so outgoing and he’s really not afraid of anything. He has taken all of this in stride and he is so strong,” she said. “It is up to us to do everything we can for him.”