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Costs, benefits of a new heart

Kevin and Lori Lozano of Buffalo know all too well about the price paid for a heart transplant -- both before and after surgery.

"Can you imagine finding money for college to secure your future when your family is faced with staggering medical bills and related costs?" he said. "Post-transplant medications typically reach an annual cost of $13,000, a financial burden even for families with health insurance because of co-payments."

Marcena, who won three gold medals in swimming at the U.S. Transplant Games at the University of Utah, underwent her first heart transplant in 1993 and the second in 2003.

A graduate of City Honors School, Marcena earned an associate's degree in human services from Erie Community College and was working toward her bachelor's degree in social work at Buffalo State College at the time of her death at age 25.

In 1980, shortly after she was born in what was then Children's Hospital, doctors discovered that her heart had severe problems.

For 13 years, she attended a special camp with other heart patients and then became a camp staff member to help younger kids face life-threatening illness.

Her cardiologist told her in August 2003 that she needed a second heart transplant.

"Well let's get going, because I have to be back in school by January," Marcena responded.

To honor their daughter's memory, the Lozanos are directing the Elephant Run to benefit the Marcena Lozano Memorial Scholarship Fund to help "young people who have had a second chance at life and need the gift of an education for their future," Lori Lozano said.

Michael J. LoCurto, Buffalo Common Council member representing the Delaware District, knows the value of bouncing back following transplant surgery.

"Going back to school following a heart and liver transplant allowed me to get a degree and pursue my goal of public service," said LoCurto, who earned a master's degree in urban planning from the University at Buffalo. LoCurto had suffered from an inherited blood disorder.

The Elephant Run (so named because an elephant never forgets) will be held at 9 a.m. on Mother's Day, May 13, near Marcy Casino in Delaware Park. For more information, call 836-7045.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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