Vineyard native Chris Aring-Sharkovitz has long held an interest in medicine. Born with a hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital condition, he spent many hours in the hospital in his youth, and underwent three open heart surgeries in the first three years of his life.

But despite the struggles, he found inspiration in his surroundings.

“I felt very positive, I was surrounded by smart doctors and nurses,” he said, in an interview with the Gazette. “I wanted to make sure that someone else is able to feel the way that I felt.”

Recently, after completing the third semester of a post-baccalaureate pre-med program, Mr. Aring-Sharkovitz had to put those dreams on hold. In March of this year, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and cirrhosis, the result of surgeries he had as a child. Now, the only path forward is a full heart and liver transplant.

It is an uncommon operation, and it could take months to find a donor.

Mr. Aring-Sharkovitz graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2016. His father Dan Sharkovitz was a longtime and beloved English teacher at the high school. The Island community and beyond has been quick to offer help as Mr. Aring-Sharkovitz awaits a donor. Earlier last month, his family created a GoFundMe campaign to help fund his medical expenses. Currently, over $71,000 in donations have been raised towards the $100,000 goal.

“It honestly has been such a big boost emotionally,” Mr. Aring-Sharkovitz said of the outpouring of support. “The Vineyard is such a great community. Everyone really looks out for each other.”

Mr. Aring-Sharkovitz is now residing in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he is awaiting a suitable organ donor. Only 400 such operations have been done before in the U.S. At age 25, he one of the oldest people living with this condition and will need medical treatment for the rest of his life.

He keeps an extremely positive attitude, however, and is looking forward to returning to his studies.

“I’m really hopeful,” he said. “I just want to get going and get on with my life.”