Man who helped save Dickinson theater during Harvey needs heart transplant

March 25, 2018 GMT

Tired and short of breath, thinking he had the flu, John Reyes of Dickinson went to the doctor in November, only to find out he was suffering from heart failure.

The 37-year-old father of six now waits for a heart transplant at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. As he waits, he has the prayers of members of the Bay Area Harbour Playhouse, which provided his family with shelter for almost a week after the Reyeses were flooded out of their home by Hurricane Harvey.

The family repaid the theater during their stay by blocking flood water from coming in and stopping leaks in the roof.

After Reyes went to the doctor, his failure to respond to medications challenged physicians for several weeks until he was diagnosed in December with left ventricular noncompaction cardiomyopathy. It’s a rare condition which, doctors said, is probably hereditary.

“We will have John’s three biological children tested to see if they have inherited the same problem,” said Reyes’ wife, Alisha.

Those children include Nevaeh, 14, who is homeschooled; Nick, 12, a student at Dunbar Middle School; and Jaiden, 10, who attends Bay Colony Elementary School in Dickinson.

“We are a ‘Brady Bunch’ family,” Alisha Reyes said. “We each had three kids when we got married.”

John Reyes, who is 5 foot 9 inches tall and describes himself as a “a pretty physical guy,” graduated from Pflugerville High School in 1997 before getting into construction and remodeling of homes, then computers and electronics.

He was the grocery manager at a Walmart in Austin, when he met Alisha, who was the store’s pharmacy manager.

The couple married and moved their crew to Alisha’s hometown of Andrews.

Last May, the Reyes family moved to Dickinson so that two of Alisha’s biological children, Kolby, 16, and Kenzy, 13, could get treatment at Texas Children’s Hospital for immunity disorders. Her elder daughter, Kaylie, 20, has since joined the family in Dickinson to help out following complications that began with Hurricane Harvey.

As the storm raged, the Reyes family was evacuated by boat from their home and found shelter at the theater, 3803 Texas 3 in Dickinson, where they lived for six days and nights.

“The theater’s founding director, Bennie Nipper, says that the Reyes family saved her theater by building temporary barriers that kept out rain plus any possible looters,” theater spokeswoman Ann Leeman said. “They mopped up water as it came in under the doors and placed canvas tarps over the leaking roof.”

The Reyes family returned home to find that Harvey’s wind and water had destroyed their truck, three automobiles, personal belongings and the first floor of the house.

John Reyes returned to his job at Cimarron Energy job in Katy, and and begun tackling repair work needed on his home.

Severe chest pains on Nov. 13 forced him to go to the emergency room at UTMB, his wife said.

A pre-heart transplant coordinator at the hospital said that a heart transplant would be needed soon to save his life.

Alisha Reyes described the couple’s situation at UTMB as “here until transplant.”

“The doctors say the wait, on average, is two to four weeks, but it could be tomorrow; it could be any hour,” she said.

Leeman said, “People can help John by praying for him and his doctors and by donating to help with expenses associated with the heart transplant.”

Donations are being accepted on a GoFundMe account (John Alisha Reyes) and also at the National Bank of Andrews (John Reyes Heart Fund) in Andrews.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net