Let's move heaven, earth for this angel
BYLINE: By Lewis Grizzard
SECTION: LIVING; Section C; Page 1
Melissa Segars is a doll, a pretty little doll with a face taken from an angel.
She sits there across from me, the 70 or so pounds of her, and she breathes from a tube that is attached to an oxygen tank sitting on the floor.
We talk shop, Melissa and I. We both were born with what doctors called heart murmurs. Melissa, in 1968. Me, an eon earlier.
We've both had teams of doctors do a great deal of carving upon us. Melissa, 25, has had heart surgery and has had a lung removed. She's even had gall bladder surgery.
I've had three heart surgeries.
Melissa is a transplant candidate. I was one, too, for an awful week back in March when my own heart decided it wouldn't beat anymore after my third surgery.
That's where our similarities end. My heart started doing its job again, and I was taken off the transplant list.
Melissa still needs a new heart and a new lung. If she doesn't get them, a doctor has been quoted as saying, she is "at great risk of dying."
A call came as early as last week. Melissa was at a movie.
Her mother explained the call came from the St. Louis Children's Hospital. They said they might have a heart and a lung for Melissa.
Why are there always catches in life? The one here was there was another young person in the hospital with a higher priority than Melissa. If that child could use the heart and lung, they would go to that child.
If not, Melissa would get them.
Melissa Segars speaks in a soft little squeak.
"Mama got me on the phone and told me to come home quick," she said. "I kept asking her, 'Is this it? Is this it?' She just said, 'Get home quick.' "
The jet was ready for the trip from Atlanta to St. Louis.
Then the hospital called back. The heart and lung went to the other patient. The wait continues.
Insurance won't pay for Melissa's surgery when it comes. (And too many people have worked and prayed too hard for it not to come.) That's because her surgery is classified as experimental. Don't you just know some bureaucrat-type is responsible for that?
So, for months now the Fayette County community, where Melissa and her family live, has been trying to raise the money to pay for what it will cost to try to save the young woman's life.
Soaring health care costs? How's the fact the surgery and post-op care will cost a million?
Helluva thing. The Fayette County community, which used to be dirt roads before it soared to metro Atlanta status, has come forward with $ 550,000.
There have been auctions, rallies, barbecues, concerts, pancake breakfasts, and Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers is coming this fall for a fund-raiser.
And there has been the flood of printed pleas for help for Melissa. And, you guessed it, here's another. Hey, we're brothers and sisters in the scalpel.
Melissa used to want to be a veterinarian. Now, she says, "I guess I'm too old to go to all that school now."
A friend says, "You've got your whole life ahead of you. You can do what you want to."
If she can get that million. If she can get and survive that surgery.
I wish you could all see her. I wish you could look upon that little face and see those eyes. I wish you could sense the courage in her as I have.
Make checks payable to "COTA for Melissa." Mail to Fayette County Bank, 150 West Lanier Ave., Fayetteville, Ga. 30214.
We don't have enough angels as it is.
For my money, that's the best column Lewis Grizzard ever wrote. Happy Birthday, sir.
I've borrowed one of your columns from The AJC to mark it. Hope you don't mind.