Got $13 to help preserve a life?

Anna Marie Kool hopes to help her friend Kristen Hicks (Shae Crisson)

January 19, 2012 1:46:04 PM PST
Anna Marie Kool turns 13 on Friday and all she wants for her birthday is your help. The Wake County girl's wish is to get people to donate to her friend in Oxford after she needed an emergency heart transplant.

"When I first found out that she was sick and in the ICU, I like [burst] out in tears," Anna Marie recalled.

Anna Marie's collecting donations for her friend Kristen Hicks through COTA, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. Anna Marie told ABC11 she hopes 1,000 people will donate $13 and leave words of encouragement for Kristen too.

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"Not only am I turning 13, Kristen is now able to turn 13 years old because of the heart transplant that she had, and I think 13 is a good number this year," said Kool.

Kristen said she's grateful for her friend's support.

"I was excited that she wanted to help me and it's good to know that I have a best friend like that," she said. "It means everything to me."

Kristen's mother said the suddenness of her daughter's illness and transplant came as a shock.

"I knew she was sick, but I had no idea she was that sick," Kimberly Summers Hicks explained.

It was just four weeks from diagnosis, to transplant, to discharge from the hospital.

"God just blessed us with a transplant so quickly, and the family that donated their family's organs blessed us," said Kimberly Summers Hicks. "This family that I don't know, and may never know, gave me my daughter back because I could have easily lost her."

Now, the family faces mounting medical bills and expensive prescriptions.

"Our co-pay for her medications monthly is somewhere between $300-$400 a month, and that'll be for the rest of her life," Kimberly Summers Hicks explained. "So, she's on 14 medications, four times a day, and it's very expensive."

COTA helps families fundraise and gather money for transplant related costs, which include all the deductibles and things not covered by insurance - plus the medications. That's where Kristen's friend Anna Marie comes in. Giving is a tradition in the Kool family.

"Me and my brother try to give back every year for our birthday and thank God for another year of life," Anna Marie explained.

Anna Marie's mother said the tradition began when her daughter was very young.

"It started when the big Tsunami happened and she was in Kindergarten," said Carlena Kool.

But this time, Anna Marie is not helping strangers overseas, she's helping a friend in need.

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