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Lovegrove donates proceeds from ‘Heart Art’ to Washington woman awaiting pancreatic transplant

By Staff | Feb 9, 2011

Cindy Scinto, center, is pictured with Leoma Lovegrove and Lovegrove’s husband, Michael.

Last July, someone unexpected wandered into artist Leoma Lovegrove’s Matlacha gallery and, as she was browsing, Cindy Scinto stopped at a display of paintings featuring hearts, a theme Lovegrove revisits every February to raise awareness and funds for various charities, such as the American Heart Association.

Quite taken with the “heart art,” Scinto approached Lovegrove and shared that she had underwent a heart transplant, and so the two got to talking and Lovegrove gave Scinto one of her special heart paintings.

But that was only the beginning of what Lovegrove would end up giving to her new found friend.

As a 40-year old woman living in Spokane, Wash., Scinto had no risks for heart disease — but over the course of just three years, she suffered a heart attack and endured 32 heart catheterizations, 11 stents, two open-heart surgeries and a thoracotomy that was part of an experimental program to grow new vessels around her heart.

In May of 2005, Scinto was placed on the heart transplant list after surviving cardiac arrest two times. With 70 people in the Northwest already waiting for a heart, the transplant surgeon estimated it would be nine months to a year before she was called.

Scinto's book.

But Scinto got lucky and soon received a new heart.

Things went well the first few months, but Scinto contracted a cancerous type of virus from the transplanted heart and the only viable treatment was chemotherapy. After nine months of chemo twice a day, the virus became dormant.

Scinto, also a diabetic, now needs a pancreas transplant and has formed a charitable organization from which all funds raised will go towards the operation and related expenses.

And that’s where Lovegrove’s Heart Art comes in.

“This will be my seventh February doing this, and this year I’ll paint about 500 7 by 9 inch hearts. I give them away, but sign them for a small donation,” Lovegrove said. “This year, all of the donations I collect from the hearts will go to benefit Cindy. I hate thinking of her dealing with the stress of all those bills, flying all over the country for treatments and surgeries. She’s sick — though, you would never know it. She’s so positive, even with what she’s going through. To me, it’s a miracle she’s here, and she’s here for a reason. She’s a gift from God.”

“Having a heart transplant and going through nine years of illness has taxed my family financially. I can’t get disability, but I can’t work. That’s very difficult on us. Co-pays alone are about $1200 a month,” Scinto said. “Leoma is an amazing woman. Every February she creates these hearts and she normally raises money for charity — but she somehow got it into her head to give the proceeds to me! I don’t understand this woman. She’s just incredible. I absolutely love her.”

Scinto wrote a book about her experience called “A Heart Like Mine,” and on Sunday, Feb. 20, she will visit Lovegrove’s new gallery on Sanibel to sign copies of her book.

A naturally cheerful woman with a bright and bubbly personality, Scinto said she simply doesn’t have the capacity to give up or feel sorry for herself.

“I just can’t stop. As long as I’m breathing, I’m going to keep going,” she said, adding that she hopes to inspire people who are also dealing with hard times — whether medically, emotionally, spiritually or socially. “That’s my goal. I want to encourage people. Life is not easy, no matter what you go through, but you can do it. You don’t have to bemoan it and give up. I’m no more special than anyone else.”

But while Scinto may be the recipient of Lovegrove’s fundraising efforts, not all of the proceeds will go to fund her operation.

“After my transplant, I got to meet the family of my heart donor, a 28-year-old single mom who died tragically. She came from a family of working poor in Seattle, and so now, 10 percent of all the funds raised for me go to my heart donors family. I just appreciate them so much,” Scinto said, noting that she’s also working on setting up a fund to help people in situations similar to hers.

In April, Scinto will release her newest book, “A Heart Like Yours.”

The same day as Scinto’s Sanibel booksigning, Lovegrove will host “Painting Out Loud for a Heart Like Mine” at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Please call 472-1900 or email paintingoutloud@gmail.com‘>paintingoutloud@gmail.com for more information.

To learn more about Cindy Scinto and “A Heart Like Mine,” go to www.cindyscinto.com‘>www.cindyscinto.com.