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Superior woman, daughter share fight for life

Friends and family are giving from the heart for a Superior woman who is waiting for hers.

Mara Krysiak has faced her inherited heart condition with optimism, strength and a can-do attitude.

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“Her motto is ‘I got this,’” said Stephanie Evans of Superior, a family friend who has known Mara since she was in kindergarten. “She says ‘I got this’ because she’s come too far to give up now.”

In kindergarten, Mara was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. The disease didn’t stop her from playing softball, bowling, camping and fishing. She received a heart transplant Nov. 24, 2012. But she went through rejection three times, and in November, was given an artificial heart transplant at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital.

“This is what they call a bridge to her heart transplant,” Evans said of the SynCardia transplant and the huge “blue box” to which it is hooked up.

Currently, the 21-year-old is fighting off an infection that surfaced Thursday. Only after it recedes can she be put on the transplant list for a heart and kidneys.

Mara hasn’t gone through her ordeal alone. Her mother Heather has been with her every step of the way. Heather Krysiak, too, was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in kindergarten. Her mother died of the disease at age 25.

Mara and her mother got yearly tests together. Eight years ago, the two received pacemakers together during back-to-back surgeries the day before Valentine’s Day. On Aug. 1, Heather got a heart transplant. Her daughter was given her artificial heart three months later.

“We just always think it’s weird,” Heather said. “We thought we should be able to bond in some other way.”

She has been putting on a lot of miles lately, from checkups in Minneapolis where her own heart was installed to her daughter’s bedside in Milwaukee.

“She’s a phenomenal inspiration,” Heather said of Mara. “She’s my hero.”

“She never complains,” Evans said.

Both mother and daughter are caring, loving people, said Sara Tucker, who works with Heather at United HealthCare.

“Heather has such a big heart and soul she would do anything she could for anyone,” Tucker said.

Now, team Mara is rallying together for them. A benefit runs 1-5 p.m. Saturday at the Kom-On-Inn, 332 N. 57th Ave. W. in Duluth.

Evans hopes more than 600 friends and family show up to share spaghetti, garlic bread and dessert. There has already been an outpouring of support.

“The amount of stuff that’s been donated just for the raffle, I don’t know where they’re going to put it all,” Evans said. The event will include 50/50 drawings, T-shirt sales, bracelet sales and balloon animals. Money raised goes to defray expenses in Mara’s fight for life.

“We know benefits are to give money,” Evans said, but this is also a chance to show Heather, her husband Craig, their son Collin and Mara that folks are thinking about them and willing to help.

“That community support is a big part,” Evans said. “To show them they’re not alone.”

Mara herself may attend the benefit via the internet.

“Even if 10 people get to say hi to her for a few minutes, it will be a success,” Evans said.

The family has set up a Facebook site, Team Mara (Mara Krysiak), to keep people updated on her progress. Money is also being accepted on under Mara Krysiak and donations can be made to “Team Mara” at any Superior Choice Credit Union branch.