When Ahwatukee resident Amanda Potucek heard that her young niece was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, her first reaction was fear.
Emma Mae Salvati was born with a heart murmur, which Potucek said is becoming more common in infants. She said everything was running smoothly until her brother, Jim, took Emma to her eight-month check-up. When she went for her routine visit, the doctor had found a rigid heart muscle, as well as enlarged upper left atria in her heart.
Potucek said restrictive cardiomyopathy is the most severe of all myopathy diseases, and that being far from Emma and her family is hard because they live in Romeoville, Ill. She said that she feels helpless, but she is glad that Emma isn't going through any pain or distress. The cardiologists have told Jim and his wife, Maneenut, that without a cardiac transplant, their 11-month-old daughter will not survive.
"Emma is such a happy baby, always giving you that little smile that makes your heart melt." Potucek said. "There is no other option for her but this transplant."
In addition, Potucek said that she and her parents try to visit Emma's family and provide all the love and support they need at this time. For the past two months, she and her mother have been working hard to set up a silent auction event that will be taking place Saturday at CK's Tavern and Grill in Ahwatukee.
The event will help raise money for Emma's new and improved heart. Potucek said they will be accepting any items for donation to be used for raffle baskets and silent auction gifts.
Potucek said there are many certificates and fun prizes that will be given away through Saturday's raffle. In addition, she said there will be a 50/50 raffle entry.
Fifty percent will go to the one winning ticket, and the other 50 percent will be donated to the Emma Mae Foundation.
She said that one of the most exciting parts of the evening at CK's is going to involve the silent auction items, such as a new iPhone 4s, a seven-day hotel accommodation from RCI timeshares in San Diego, and sports items from Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, Oscar de la Hoya and Andre Dawson.
Others are helping Emma's cause, such as the Phoenix Fire Fighters who have volunteered their time by participating in the, "Day in the life of the Phoenix Fire Department."
The winner of the auction, and a guest, will be able to spend a six-hour day with the firemen, including dinner, Potucek said.
Donations can be made by cash or check, and made payable at anytime to the Emma Mae Foundation, 1290 S. Eucalyptus Place, Chandler, 85286.
In addition, raffle baskets can be brought at anytime to CK's Tavern and Grill, 4142 E. Chandler Blvd., and will be included in the raffle items.
Potucek said Emma is attending pediatric appointments for her check-ups every three months, and is still waiting for acceptance onto the donor list.
"We hope that approval comes sooner than later, we are all very anxious to get Emma her new heart, and have her live a healthy, happy life," Potucek said.
Potucek's mom and Emma's grandmother, Maureen Salvati, said that after the initial shock of discovering Emma's disease she and her family wanted to work on getting her the best care.
Salvati said that she is aware money is always in the back of one's mind, but that at this time they want to only think of Emma and obtaining a new heart.
"I was shocked and scared for my baby girl," Salvati said. "I never thought that grandma's little princess would ever have to go through anything like this."
Salvati said Emma is always with a smile and likes to play with her 2-year-old sister, Ava. In addition, she asks for people to pray for her to have a very successful surgery and to grow up and have a healthy life.
• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.