College Community Rallies Behind Student Waiting for Donor Heart

By Dave Franzman, Reporter


By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Hundreds of people in the College Community School District of Cedar Rapids have a single hope this month. It’s a “Hope 4 Hailey’s Heart.”

Hailey Steimel, 17, a Prairie High School junior, is on an urgent heart transplant list at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. She has a congenital heart defect that suddenly, and dramatically, worsened last month. Her struggle to recover enough to get a donor heart is prompting school friends and even those who don’t know her to rally round.

In Hailey’s case, just getting on the transplant list is a medical victory of sorts. Until a few days ago, she was too sick to even be a transplant candidate.

Mike Steimel, Hailey’s dad, said she came through surgery earlier this week and recovered to the point her doctors now consider her well enough to get that new heart, if a compatible donor is found.

Hope Steimel, Hailey’s twin sister, said she keeps telling people at school that her sister is feeling the loving and support.

“It’s awesome, and I know Hailey really appreciates it. She doesn’t always hear it or see it right away, but I make sure to tell her about it,” Hope Steimel said.

She said after the surgery, and medication, her sister wasn’t really able to read the cards, but she is now and she’s also seen a special video from classmates at Prairie High School. The entire student body created a Happy Birthday video to cheer Hailey up on her 17th birthday last Monday.

Family members say so far the special Facebook page "Hope 4 Hailey's Heart and other things have offered mostly moral support, but fundraisers begin soon to help the family with ongoing expenses. One benefit is set for Sunday, November 3 at the Wild Hogs Saloon and Eatery in Walford.

Supporters have also created T-shirts to sell at events and through the school. Mike Steimel said at a time like this, it’s good to know Hailey has a community behind her.

“It’s just unbelievable the support from all over—the thoughts, the prayers the birthday cards. It’s just awesome support,” he said.

While College Community students, parents and teachers have shown support for the “Hope 4 Hailey’s Heart” campaign, there is more to come.

At Friday’s football game, the Prairie High team will wear heart-shaped decals on their helmets with Hailey’s initials. They’ll also dedicate a game to her in October.

In addition, anyone who wants to help with expenses can go to any Hills Bank Branch and contribute to the Hailey Steimel Benefit Fund.

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