SPRING HILL — Noah Nero, born Sept. 21 with half a heart, underwent his second heart surgery March 7.
"Okay, but rough," his mother, Cherish Nero, said of the procedure from Noah's bedside at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg last week.
As Noah has blossomed from his birth weight of 7 pounds, 7 ounces to more than 14 pounds, his body has outgrown the original heart stent implanted Oct. 11. The stent was channeling blood to the right side of his heart, which must do double duty to keep the infant alive. As doctors forecast in October, Noah would need a larger stent.
Although the procedure appeared successful, the child's oxygen level dropped. "He needed maximum oxygen support," his mother said.
And his blood pressure dropped. "They had to open his chest," she said worriedly and wearily the day after surgery.
The Spring Hill family, which includes 2 1/2-year-old daughter Allison, is emotionally stressed and financially pinched.
Extended family and friends are coming to their aid with a spaghetti dinner, raffles, silent auction and dance from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday in the cafeteria at Hudson Middle School, 14540 Cobra Way, Hudson.
Noah's father, Bill Nero, 34, teaches science and coaches basketball and football there. Cherish Nero once taught Spanish at the school.
Putting together Noah's Quest Heart Benefit is Kimberly Hurney, Noah's 23-year-old cousin and daughter of Bill Nero's sister, Mary Hurney.
"Anything we can do to help them," urged the young woman who has been serving as nanny to Allison. Kimberly Hurney has a medical background, so she also has been offering emotional support and medical information to the family since December.
The cafeteria can handle as many as 300 guests, Hurney said.
The fundraiser will include raffles at $1 to $5 for items, including gift baskets, donated by Hernando and Pasco businesses such as Marzella's Restaurant, Sorrento's Bakery, SunCruz Casino, beauty salons and more.
A silent auction of vacations is a special attraction. Topping the offerings is a week's lodging in the Florida Keys, the vacation home of donors Rob Risley, Rob Polanis and Russ Morrison. Jade Dream Travel is donating two vacations from a choice of various destinations.
Although the Nero family has health insurance, Cherish Nero, 30, says the little things add up. Special formula for Noah costs $30 a can. Then there are the $16 in tolls, not to mention the gas, for the trips to St. Petersburg three or four times a week.
Toss in meals in the hospital cafeteria, $10 per night stays at the Ronald McDonald House, Allison's child care expenses and a lengthy cell phone bill — "We're on the phone with doctors all the time," Cherish Nero said.
Bill Nero has exhausted his paid leave at Hudson Middle School, so when he must join his wife and son at the hospital, the family loses his wages.
Kimberly Hurney says she doesn't have a monetary goal for the fundraiser, just "anything we can do to help them."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.