NAPLES — The former chief of Sebago EMS is seeking help after learning that he needs a heart transplant.
Tim Smith, 44, and his wife Shauna aren’t used to asking for assistance. He previously served as the fire captain of Buxton Fire and Rescue and as a fire instructor throughout Southern Maine, and she is a nurse and paramedic. Shauna Smith said that having worked in public safety, the couple is used to being the ones giving aid, not receiving it.
“It really stinks to ask for help and to be on this side of things. We’re used to being the helpers,” she said.
The Smiths are now asking for help because Tim is in need of a new heart.
He was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in 2012 and has struggled with heart problems for years.
According to his wife, he began coughing up blood in 2013, leading to a coronary artery bypass graft.
“We thought everything was going to be good, that that was going to fix everything,” she said.
But only six months later, they discovered that some of the grafts hadn’t taken, meaning that he needed some new stents put in. Stents are metal or plastic tubes inserted into a vessel or duct to keep the passageway open.
While those worked for a while, Tim “kept getting blocked up or needing new stents, despite all the medications and doing everything the doctor said,” his wife said.
A year after the bypass, doctors discovered he had built up scar tissue around his lungs so they could not inflate or deflate properly. He underwent video-assisted thoracic surgery, but he “continued to have chest pain and shortness of breath,” she said.
Over the past few years, he has continued to have more stents inserted and 17 cardiac catheterizations, which is when a catheter is inserted into a chamber or vessel of the heart.
“Things started going downhill” in November of 2018, Shauna said, when he suffered more chest pain and difficulty breathing, leading to more hospitalizations. He had an angioplasty — a procedure to widen narrowed or obstructed arteries or veins — in January 2019. He then had another heart attack in February 2019 and needed another stent put in.
After having so many stents inserted, “there’s no more real estate left for them to stent,” she explained, and they’re out of options.
“They fixed what they can, but he’s still having symptoms. He’s maxed out on all his medications and on the amount of stents he can really have. A heart transplant is really the only option,” she said.
They are getting a second medical opinion, but they’re still “between a rock and a hard place,” Shauna explained.
Tim, who has two children, is trying to get on a transplant list, which requires multiple tests and evaluations. Meanwhile, he has not been able to work for a month at his job as safety supervisor at CCB Inc.
A friend of the Smiths, Cyndi German, recently began a GoFundMe for the family to help with household bills, transplant medications and their other needs.
Janet Basile, manager of employee engagement at CCB, said the company shared the GoFundMe with its employees.
“We’re really proud of the generosity of the CCB family. We want to urge the community to support Tim and consider what they can do,” she said.
Anyone interested in helping the Smiths can donate via the GoFundMe, called “Former Fire Fighter Needs a Heart Transplant,” or through the bank account Tim’s Transplant Fund, c/o ME Solutions Credit Union, 209B Western Ave., South Portland.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at email@example.com.
Tim, Shauna and their daughter Mia