by Jackie Kallen
When heavyweight Steve Cunningham fights Natu Visinia in Philly this weekend on NBC, he will have more on his mind than getting the win. He will be thinking about when the phone will ring, telling he and his wife Livvy that a donor heart has been found for their 9-year-old daughter Kennedy.
Kennedy was born with something called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Only half of her heart was developed and working. She had two surgeries before she was even six months old. She spent the first year of her life in a hospital, suffering a stroke, infections and many other complications.
Yet with love and prayer, she has miraculously made it this far. But she is far from out of the woods. Heart-breakingly, the surgery that has helped certain other patients will not work for Kennedy.
The Cunninghams are from Philadelphia, but doctors there did not have a solution. Putting their faith in the Lord, they traveled to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Kennedy was evaluated and deemed eligible for a heart transplant. That was four months ago.
Now the family waits daily for the phone to ring, alerting them that a matching heart is available. Livvy and Kennedy have moved close to the hospital since doctors say the donor heart must be transplanted within four hours. Staying in Philadelphia was not an option. Steve and the couple’s two sons will join them there soon.
This training camp has been especially difficult for Cunningham. Livvy is also his manager and her absence is felt in and out of the ring. Besides focusing on the fight, he is caring for sons Steve, Jr. and Cruz.
Unless you have Mayweather money, an ordeal like this can wipe a family out. They will have to remain in the Pittsburgh area for about a year. Add medical expenses to cost-of-living expenses and it is quite a battle. Thankfully, friends and fans have helped through fund-raisers and personal donations.
Fighters must have intense concentration and focus when they step into the ring. Their lives depend on it. A fighter’s mind has to be on that man in front of him or her at all times. For Steve Cunningham to do that, he must be mentally strong enough to put Kennedy out of his mind for each 3-minute round. He must put all his energy into beating Visinia.
Then, after they hold his hand up in victory, he can get in his car with his two boys, drive the four hours to Pittsburgh and sit by the phone with his family.
And that phone WILL ring.
And when it does, Kennedy will pick herself off the canvas and go on to win her fight.