AUGUSTA — Andy McLean faced some of the worst moments of his life recently. His little girl needed yet another heart surgery and he had no way to pay.

Yet he has found himself weeping with gratitude.

The outpouring has come in waves — from church members who have chipped in with food, fuel and money; neighbors and friends who demanded donation boxes to set up in their businesses until there were so many boxes out there and the McLeans ran out of material to make more; to the sister who has taken on a second full-time job to pay a mortgage on a second house so the McLeans have a place to live.

“As a dad I’ve shed many tears over this outpouring of support for my baby girl,” McLean said. “We will never forget and it means more than anyone knows.”

Andy and Susan McLean found out on Valentines Day that their 6-year-old daughter, Haley, faces her fourth open heart surgery. Haley was born with a congenital heart defect and had three open heart surgeries and five cardiac catheterizations by the time she was 5.

Now, her mitral valve — the only valve that has not required surgery — is in trouble, Andy McLean said.

Next week, surgeons at Maine Medical Center in Portland will stop Haley’s heart as they insert a balloon catheter in hopes of enlarging the valve. The fix is temporary, and nobody really knows how temporary, McLean said.

“We were really caught off guard,” McLean said. “We were expecting her next surgery would be to replace her pacemaker battery in three or four years.”

The McLean family, which also include Haley’s 11-year-old brother, Andy II, have grown familiar with the worry of watching Haley undergo heart surgery. But this time Andy and Susan McLean have the added strain of wondering how they will pay for it.

Andy McLean, who worked at an area warehouse for the past 16 years, took a leave of absence in September for medical reasons. The family’s health insurance, and his work compensation insurance were unexpectedly terminated on Dec. 29.

The family is now in a legal wrangle trying to get the benefits reinstated, said their attorney, Ronald Bourget.

“It’s really put Andy and Susan way behind the eightball,” Bourget said. “If we could come to terms on some of these issues it would relieve a lot of stress.”

Andy McLean, who was the sole earner for the family, said he and Susan were under tremendous financial stress even before they learned Haley needed another surgery. After hearing the news, the McLean’s turned to the community by creating donation boxes to set up at businesses across the area.

They only intended to put out a few boxes, but then people kept calling demanding boxes for their stores.

“All of a sudden they’re all over the place and people want to help,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Then the McLeans learned that Boomer MacFarland, who runs Augusta’s youth football program, was organizing a fundraiser to help pay for Haley’s surgery. Football Play Day for Haley Mae is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Capitol Park. The event, sponsored by city and Cony football programs, will include flag football, capture the flag and other events. There is a $2 suggested donation to enter.

“We’re so thankful for the community,” Andy McLean said. “If not for them, we no doubt would not have a home.”

Haley missed school at Hussey Elementary School for the fist time this week. She will not return until after she has her surgery.

Andy and Susan McLean have been guarded about what they’ve told their daughter. She knows she has to go to the hospital and that she will go the Ronald McDonald House and the Barbara Bush wing. Haley has been there before, but she doesn’t really remember what happened there, McLean said.

He and Susan have always found a comfort in knowing their daughter knew too little to be afraid and was too young to remember the pain.

“As she gets older, it much tougher,” McLean said. “She gets more afraid. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking as parents.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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