Stacie Wallace Sumandig is getting used to people taking a second look when she shows up at a grocery store with her mechanical heart strapped to her back.
A companion must always travel with her to carry a backup battery and other supplies as well.
Sumandig was admitted to the University of Washington Hospital in Seattle on Nov. 2, when a medical team battled her heart condition and pneumonia. She received the artificial heart and returned to her home in Puyallup on Dec. 21, just in time to celebrate Christmas with her family.
Now settled comfortably at home, Sumandig is regaining her health so she can be placed on a heart transplant list.
Sumandig has been an employee of the Puyallup School District lawn crew for the past seven years. Her medical bills have skyrocketed to more than $800,000 so far.
Puyallup School District employees have donated leave time, and for that, the family is thankful.
“We are very grateful that the Puyallup School District has been so forthcoming and generous and caring through this whole ordeal,” said Sumandig’s mother, Helen Arnestad.
While her daughter was recovering in Seattle, the school district sent a big box of food so the family could put things into the microwave and stay by Stacie’s bedside.
Sumandig and a companion travel weekly to Seattle to have her health condition evaluated.
“She still is not on the transplant list, but we are hopeful,” said Arnestad, who added it could be a one- to four-month wait before a donor heart is found after Stacie is placed on the list.
Sumandig continues to gain strength, Arnestad said. Recently, Stacie’s husband sent a photo of her vacuuming.
A Dec. 15 fundraiser raised more than $6,000. Donations are still being accepted at www.gofundme.com under “Support Stacie Sumandig,” or at any Tapco Credit Union location under donation account number 2805700, Fundraiser for Stacie Wallace Sumandig.
Her children, Alec and Annika, are delighted to have their mom back home. On their Facebook page, they wrote, “We got our mom for Christmas and that was the best gift ever.”Joan Cronk is a freelance reporter for the Herald.