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Belly Up hosts fundraiser for one of its own

SOLANA BEACH – The Belly Up is hosting a benefit for employee Kat Mills at 8 p.m. Nov. 29.  Entertainment will be provided by SoulRaye, Stripes and Lines and DJ Man-Cat. There will also be a silent auction and raffle drawing.
Mills, 42, has been a familiar face at the club for almost a decade. She began as a bartender, then worked in the box office and later in the accounting department.
Around 3:30 p.m. Oct. 13, she collapsed after experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, a pounding heart and a rapid heart rate.
“I came down into the backstage area,” she remembers. “I walked into accounting and another office, then hit the ground. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital a few days later.”
Mills was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, or LQTS, an inherited disorder of the heart’s electrical system that frequently results in sudden death, often at a young age.
In addition to her heart, her lungs went into failure after filling up with blood during life-saving compressions. To stabilize her, the medical team lowered her body temperature by reducing the room temperature and packing her with ice.
“They told someone I had a 5 percent chance of survival,” Mills recalls. “It didn’t look good and they called my family who came down from L.A.”
Thankfully, Mills did survive. She was in intensive care for nine days and on Oct. 21 received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
The following day she was released from the hospital. She’s expected to return to work in January.
Because she had no medical insurance, Mills estimates that the cost for medical care will range between $500,000 and $600,000.
Mills says she was waking up in the hospital when she said learned from her physician of an effort at the Belly Up to help raise money.
“Dr. (Scott) Eisman said, ‘I’m playing at your benefit,’” she remembers. “I was surprised and excited. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Meryl Klemow, who works in the club’s marketing and promotions department, said Mills shouldn’t be surprised.
“From the time I started working here five years ago Kat was the one who knew everyone and took on the role as a friend and a trainer,” she said. “The Belly Up has a special relationship like a family. The hospital had to tell us to please stop calling because they were so overwhelmed.”
Klemow attributes Mills’ miraculous recovery to the quick response of the Solana Beach Fire Department and the staff at Encinitas Scripps Memorial Hospital.
“Dr. Eisman was really good about giving us information in layman’s terms,” she said. “We were all very consumed.”
Klemow says the decision to host a benefit came from the very top, owners Steve Goldberg and Phil Berkovitz.
The evening of Nov. 29 promises to be one of gratitude and good music.
Eisman, who is also a bass player, will be performing with the band SoulRay. Mills’ boyfriend, Evan Polselli, will be playing with his band, Stripes and Lines.
The headline attraction will be Mills herself.
“I’m cruising around but I get tired,” she said. “But I’m feeling much better. Everybody has been so sweet and everything.”
Cost is $20 at the door. Only cash or checks made out to Kat Mills will be accepted. Donations can also be sent to the Belly Up, 143 South Cedros, Solana Beach, CA 92075. Attention: Meryl.