Burnet community embraces father on heart transplant list, holding fundraiser

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

AUSTIN — After a week in the intensive care unit, 34-year-old J.R. Box said he misses being able to spend time with his 6-year-old daughter.

PHOTO: Burnet resident J.R. Box, 34, pictured here with his wife, Brooke, and their 6-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, remains in the intensive care unit at Seton Medical Center in Austin awaiting word about a possible heart for a transplant. The community is hosting a pancake fundraiser from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 23 at the Commemorative Air Force Museum, 2402 U.S. 281 South in Burnet. Courtesy photo

“Just being here, not being able to see her is tough. Hopefully, soon, I can go outside the ICU, then I’d be able to (see her),” said Box, referring to age restrictions typically imposed by medical facilities in ICUs for visitors. “Hopefully, it will be sooner than later.”

Box, who lives in Burnet with his wife, Brooke, and daughter, Ashlyn, was admitted to Seton Medical Center on Feb. 7 suffering from serious complications caused by cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.

The first signs of his congenital heart problem surfaced in 2007, he said. Through the years, such problems plagued his family. His father and mother both died from heart-related illnesses. Box’s brother, who was 24 years older than him, underwent a heart transplant but died 10 years after the procedure.

Despite the family health issues, Box never imagined he would face problems with his own heart.

“I thought I was pretty healthy,” he said. “I started realizing that I would be in the same position as my brother. … I’m hoping I’ll be able to live.”

For emotional and mental support, Box said he relies on visits from his wife, family and friends as he awaits word about a possible heart for a transplant.

“I have family and friends coming by,” he said. “With Brooke working full time, a lot of times I don’t get to see her  for three or four days.”

He and his wife, who is 33, have been married for 10 years. She continues to work as a flight nurse with Air Evac, based in Marble Falls. Their daughter attends Bertram Elementary.

“(The doctors) just tell us to take it day by day,” Brooke Box said. “He’s stable right now. Things could change. There’s not much more we can do but just wait.”

Members of the community have launched their own effort to help the family.

John Hamilton, an Air Evac flight tech, is organizing a $5-per-plate pancake fundraiser for the Boxes from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 23 at the Commemorative Air Force Museum, 2402 U.S. 281 South.

The event will include a tour of emergency helicopters including the local aircraft as well as a unit from Killeen. One of the prize giveaways is a one-year membership into a program for emergency helicopter transports to Austin hospitals. The membership pays the cost of the flight expense not covered by insurance.

“Brooke is part of our family here at work. J.R. is part of our family,” Hamilton said. “With J.R. having the condition he has, we’re trying to help them out the best we can.”

The Box family also maintains a page on the National Foundation for Transplants website with a goal of $50,000 to help with medical costs. The website is http://patients.transplants.org/jrbox.

“That’s scary to be in that situation,” Hamilton said. “We’re hoping for the best and that he gets what he needs.”

connie@thepicayune.com