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The Hubbard teen has spent the past four months in the Cleveland Clinic.



Published: Sat, August 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Hubbard teen has spent the past four months in the Cleveland Clinic.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- Christine Steele, 15, of Hubbard got a new heart Friday.

A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman said Friday night Christine was in critical condition, which is normal after transplant surgery.

"When I talked to her [before surgery], she was so excited. She was so excited she was going to get her heart," said Joni Summers of Hubbard, a family friend.

Summers talked to Christine's mother after the 31/2-hour operation. "She said the doctor told them that everything went fine. We're all just so excited."

Summers said Christine was notified about 2:30 a.m. of the pending transplant of a heart from Tennessee. By 11 a.m., she was undergoing surgery.

Earlier this week, the teen-ager was anxious to return to school with her sophomore classmates.

"I really want to get back to school the first day. I'll make it back eventually," Christine said from her hospital room.

Christine has been in the clinic since June 8 waiting for a transplant.

The daughter of Jack and Bridget Steele had restricted cardiomyopathy, a stiffening of the heart walls that causes the blood to back up in the body.

"I miss them," Christine said of her classmates. "But I want to get healthy first so I don't get sick again."

"She's a strong kid, I'll tell you that," commented Summers, of Caroline Avenue, who has been scheduling fund-raising events to offset Christine's high medical costs.

Summers explained that Christine was diagnosed with the heart ailment five years ago while getting her tonsils and adenoids removed.

Bed rest, oxygen and medication have kept Christine close to her hospital room, although she had been getting to the cafeteria once in a while to take a break from the hospital fare she has grown to dislike.

To occupy her time, she was reading books, working on the computer, watching television and doing arts and crafts.

"I'm really tired, so I sleep a lot," Christine said earlier this week in a perky voice, noting she does visit the nurses' station for company.

When school beings Aug. 28, Christine will have her homework and weekend visits from her classmates.

Christine said it's wasn't unusual for her to have mini-heart attacks when she experienced chest pain and dropping blood pressure. She took nitroglycerine to ease the pain during the attacks that lasted half an hour to an hour.

Summers explained that Christine's father had stopped driving his truck so he can be with his daughter at the clinic, and her mother had quit her job as a factory worker.

Summers said that bake sales and car shows take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays at C's Family Restaurant at Patton's IGA Plaza on West Liberty Street.

Christine Steele Benefit Fund accounts are open at National City and Cortland banks.

A raffle will be Sept. 26 and a carwash from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 25 at Repair That Glass Services on Main Street.

The effort has raised $5,000 thus far.

"Thanks to everybody for their support. I'll be home very soon," Christine said with confidence before the surgery.




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