CARLSBAD — A fundraising campaign is under way to benefit Carlsbad resident Zen Hamil, 17, a junior at Pacific View Charter School in Oceanside. He is also a popular hockey player with the San Diego Junior Gulls, a Western States Hockey League team.
Zen was benched on his birthday, Oct. 15, for a condition he has lived with since he was 8, which caused his heart to beat dangerously fast. After nine years and four noninvasive procedures to correct a right atrial tachycardia, it was determined that the disruptive conduction came from the right atrial appendage. On Jan. 12, Zen underwent open heart surgery at Children’s Hospital to remove the right atrial appendage.
While the surgery was successful, it has left his family financially devastated. His mother, Glory C’Dealva, has been paying off medical bills for his care accumulated over the years. She hasn’t received the final medical bills relating to his recent surgery.
Her situation as a single mother is further compounded by the fact that caring for Zen since Jan. 12 has left her unable to work. C’Dealva is a hair stylist at the Noni Salon Boutique & Spa in Leucadia.
Friend Peggi Comiskey, who has known the family since their children attended St. John’s School in Encinitas several years ago, stepped in to help
“Peggi is my angel,” C’Dealva said. “I prayed to God and said, ‘I need your help.’ Since then Peggi’s been there for me.”
Comiskey has arranged for volunteers to drop off home-cooked meals. She also set up an account for financial donations at Mission Federal Credit in Encinitas. She’s currently trying to arrange a fundraiser.
She is understated about her contribution.
“I did this because it’s the right thing to do,” Comiskey said. “I’ve been in the same position and people have helped me out. You have to always give back.”
The good news is that Zen is clearly on the mend.
“I feel awesome,” he said. “They sawed my sternum so I have bone pain. I was taking five medications but now I’m down to one.”
Prior to the surgery Zen’s heart rate was 90 or 100. Now it’s 49.
“The doctors said it reflects the heart rate of the athlete that he is,” C’Dealva said proudly.
Zen will have to take it easy for the next nine weeks. Till then he walks his dogs, Hit and Braun, every day. After March 16 he can resume ice skating and prepare for rejoining his team in August. His long-term goal is to be a professional hockey player.
“I’m grateful that Children’s Hospital could help me,” Zen said. “I’ve had multiple failures of the heart and they’ve fixed them every time. Dr. James Perry has stuck with me and got me on the right track.”
C’Dealva adds that despite everything, there is no permanent damage to Zen’s heart. She gives Zen credit for doing his part by leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet of salad, fruit and lean meat.
“Zen eats well and is a disciplined athlete,” she said. “People have been dropping off sweets but he doesn’t eat them.”
Friends and other volunteers can help in several ways. Financial donations can be made to Zen Hamil, account no. 91204126, Mission Federal Credit Union, 258 N. El Camino Real, Suite C, Encinitas (between Starbucks and Noodles). To arrange to donate a meal for the family or dog food for Hit and Braun, or to help with a fundraiser, contact Peggi Comiskey at (760) 942-4694. Glory C’Dealva can be reached at (619) 840-6863.
To learn more about Zen’s story, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/zenhamil.