When Sag Harbor native Nick Kruel’s heart was racing faster than 230 beats per minute in September, he knew something had to be wrong.
The 19-year-old walked out of the University of Tampa gym, where he’d been training for the Division II baseball team, and he called his mom, Sandra Kruel, back at home.
She ordered him to go to the local emergency room immediately.
On Friday, November 20, the young man went through a successful but painful surgery to repair his aortic valve and the adjacent aorta. Doctors had discovered that he had a bicuspid aortic valve, one with two cusps instead of the normal three, leading to the nine-hour operation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston last week.
And this week, on Friday, November 27, the community is invited to a fundraiser at La Superica Restaurant to help cover the costs that come with having the surgery.
Mr. Kruel had played three high school sports back at Pierson before going on to earn a spot on the baseball team in college. The doctor’s diagnosis this fall was that when he was training for that, he was having supraventricular tachycardia—a rapid and sometimes irregular heartbeat, or an arrhythmia—because he had a bicuspid valve. At one point doctors thought they might need to replace the valve with one from a pig.
“His heart could no longer continue that kind of stress with a defective valve,” his mother said last week.
The fundraiser will help pay for expenses like traveling to Boston for follow-up visits as well as bills not covered by health insurance. There will also be costs to see a cardiologist when Mr. Kruel returns to college in January.
It so happens that the surgeons who worked on Mr. Kruel are the cardiac team for Harvard Athletics and the New England Patriots.
“They kind of specialize in athletes, which is important for whether Nick ever plays baseball again or not,” his mother said. “He is going to want to play a pickup game of baseball, soccer, play golf; that is one of the main reasons we chose Boston.”
Mary Bori, a close family friend, planned the fundraiser. “I thought the best weekend would be the weekend when all of Nick’s classmates will be home from college,” Ms. Bori said. She added that Ken O’Donnell, the owner of La Superica, agreed to open the restaurant to have the fundraiser—it has been closed since the end of the summer season.
The cover charge is $10, and there will be a cash bar, a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle.
“This is the most amazing community to ever live in,” Ms. Bori said. “I am just overwhelmed by the generosity of this entire community.”
“I don’t think Superica is going to be big enough,” she added.
That might be a good problem to have.