A Henderson man fights to get a life-saving operation that his insurance won’t cover

Sean Semon had his life ahead of him with a steady job, plans to finish his criminal justice degree and the hope of testing for the Henderson Police Department.

All that came to a halt when Semon, then 28, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy . He now needs a heart transplant — an operation not covered by his insurance.

“They still don’t know what brought on the condition,” Semon said. “I kept thinking, ‘This can’t be right. There is no way this is happening. These tests must be wrong.’ It took a while for it to sink in.”

The condition causes the heart to become enlarged and results in the deterioration of its walls.

When symptoms persist, as they did in Semon’s case, patients need to have a heart transplant.

To be on the heart transplant waiting list, Semon must have $150,000.

“That’s just to put him on the list,” said Lonnie Semon, Sean’s dad. “He is not even on the list.”

The over all surgery would cost more than $775,000.

Before his health problems, Sean was a semi professional football player.

“I was always athletic,” Semon said.

He was pursuing an associate’s degree in criminal justice and was looking to become a correctional officer with the Henderson Police Department.

Semon had tested with the department, but he missed a physical fitness run by one second and was asked to retest in a few months.

That was all before this condition gripped his life.

His trouble began in 2005 when he woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Semon was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with his condition .

Semon was prepped to have surgery and get a pacemaker.

“He was on the operating table, and the surgeon decided not to,” Lonnie said. “He said he was too young for this surgery.”

Instead, Semon was put on medication to help the condition.

Semon continued to work as a supervisor at a security company until he started having more health complications. Eventually, he had to get a pacemaker for his heart.

He was 32 when his doctor told him he needed a heart transplant or he could die in the next year. He will never forget that day — Oct. 13, 2009.

“It blew my mind,” Semon said. “Not that I needed a heart transplant — I knew that would happen eventually — but the fact I could die.”

The news was so devastating , Semon had to pull over while driving home because he was crying so hard.

By January 2010, Semon’s condition worsened so much that he needed oxygen — another expense not covered by his insurance.

He spent most of that month in and out of the hospital. When he finally was released, he suffered more complications at home.

Even though Semon wasn’t officially pronounced dead, Lonnie believed he watched his son die one night.

After begging doctors not to release Sean from the hospital, the family took him home .

“All of a sudden, he just fell back,” Lonnie recalled . “We were all scared this was it. Then his pacemaker kicked in.”

Lonnie remembers seeing the jolt surge through Semon’s body, kickstarting his heart.

“He literally came a foot off ground,” Lonnie remembered .

Semon was back in the hospital two hours after he left.

Semon’s family continues to fight to make sure he gets the operation. In the past two years, the family has had 100 to 200 fundraisers and collected close to $70,000. They have had to use a small portion of that money for Sean’s medication.

The Semons registered a page with the National Foundation for Transplants to help with donations, and they have set up booths at many Henderson events.

Lonnie said they are planning to be at the Henderson Heritage Parade April 21 and two car shows in Boulder City in May.

Lonnie also has organized restaurant fundraisers where a portion of people’s restaurant bills go toward Semon’s operation.

Semon has asked many businesses to donate items for fundraisers or auctions, but he said some them refused to help because their efforts would benefit only one person and not an entire cause.

Semon comes to many of the fundraisers.

“It takes so much out of him,” Lonnie said.

Lonnie said Semon sleeps much of his time to conserve energy.

“I have my good days and my bad days,” Semon said.

If they are able to raise the money for the transplant, Lonnie said, the post-operation medicines could cost close to $5,000.

“And he needs those to make sure the body doesn’t reject the new heart,” Lonnie said.

Because he has had to be rushed to the emergency room several times, Semon has acquired hospital bills. Lonnie thinks Semon is close to $200,000 in debt.

Lonnie said they could use the money they have raised for the transplant to pay some of the bills. However, they would still be plagued with raising more money for the transplant, so they keep their hands off.

Alt hough it has been hard, Semon has tried to stay positive.

“Positive thoughts and positive actions equal positive results,” Semon said. “Am I positive 100 percent of the time? No. But I do my best to be positive as much as I can.”

Semon has learned a lot from this experience.

“It has definitely made me a humble person,” Semon said. “I was not humble before hand.”

When Semon gets through this, he and his family want to give back to the community. They hope to open a camp for children with heart problems.

To donate to Sean Semon, visit patients.transplants.org/seansemon.

People can also find out more information on Facebook by searching for “Sean Semon fundraiser.”

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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