A Cambria man is raising awareness about the struggles of people suffering with rare health conditions.
His wife became one of those patients after nearly losing her life in a motorcycle crash, leading to multiple and difficult to diagnose health issues.
Now, through a massive artistic effort, he is making sure others who are also suffering know they are not alone in a story that is Positively Central Coast.
”My mom (Gina Guerre) was in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago. Since then she’s gotten a lot of rare conditions that a lot of people don’t know about," explains daughter Krystal Horton.
Most people haven’t heard of these conditions, even some doctors.
After years of invasive testing, consultations with specialists and countless misdiagnoses, Gina’s Guerre family, including her daughter who was 14 at the time, finally had some answers.
“Two of them being Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Systemic Scleroderma,” said Horton.
Doctors had names for some of Gina’s illnesses, but the mental toll was, at times, too much to take.
“I couldn’t get out of bed for like two years. And then I got to the point where I didn’t want to live,” said Gina Guerre. “I couldn’t work, I couldn't work, I couldn't take care of him, I couldn’t take care of my kids.”
But that was 20 years ago.
Gina's husband, Pat, is now her full-time caregiver.
Though there are still many tough days this Cambria couple has turned their efforts outward to help others isolated by their own rare conditions.
“What people don’t understand is that there are 7-thousand rare diseases. They say that one in ten people have a rare disease," said Pat Guerre. "My wife is a fortunate one who has two.”
That’s where the project 10k hearts comes from.
“As a way, as an outlet, my dad started '10k hearts for Gina', and he started painting 10k hearts”
Not only because Gina loves hearts, but because the couple wants to spread love to those who need it most.
”When you have people who say it really changed my life, and every time I am down, I look up at the heart and know life is worth living because there are so many people out there. Because that’s what they are about. It’s us telling everybody, that there are people out there fighting for you, whether you know it or not."
Pat and Gina believe art is healing.
They also create art kits for younger patients, gifts which are delivered to hospitals all over the country.
“It allows these children to forget about what’s going on in their lives for a little while. It allows them to make memories or their brothers and sisters. It also allows them to tell stories through the art,” said Pat.
The Guerre family is busy with 10k hearts, a non-profit called ‘Kneading Hope’ and various advocacy efforts, with the ultimate goal of restoring hope to patients who - too often - feel left behind.