Music in his soul, concert to repair his heart
Palatine musician Eric Kinkel has a long history of using his talent to help others.
In 1997, he performed the first of three benefit concerts that raised a total of $46,000 to support his sister, Linda, in her grueling fight against the multiple sclerosis that would take her life in 2006 at age 54.
Kinkel performed another benefit that raised money for the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation in memory of his mother, Arlene, who died at age 77 in 2006 of that rare blood disorder.
His most memorable production might have been another benefit concert dubbed "Ma Nugent Remembered," which raised funds to erect a stone monument outside Durty Nellie's in Palatine in 2007 in honor of Marion "Ma" Nugent, the mother of rock 'n' roll icon and Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, a longtime friend to Kinkel.
Kinkel's next concert, "A Heart of Gold, With a 'Kink' In It," aims to raise money for another worthy cause -- a procedure to repair a heart ailment that has plagued Kinkel, 52, since he was 13 years old.
"When I had my first spell, I was playing a trumpet," Kinkel says. "All of a sudden my heart just started freaking out. It began pounding out of my chest so fiercely and erratically. My folks were not home at the time and I was alone. I thought I was having a heart attack."
Tests at Children's Memorial Hospital revealed that Kinkel suffered from supraventricular tachycardia, a "short circuit" in the heart's electrical pattern that can cause random episodes of abnormally rapid heartbeats.
At 16, an episode prevented him from running track at Hersey High School. While the attacks are rarely life-threatening, they can interfere with normal activity and force the heart to work harder.
"There are times I'll have a half-dozen a year, and each one feels like a heart attack," Kinkel says, adding that he never knows what brings them on. "The last one I had, I was sitting down reading a book."
While drugs sometimes curb the episodes in people with the irregular heartbeats, a procedure called catheter ablation can fix the problem. In recent years, professional baseball players Carlos Silva and Mark DeRosa, while they were playing for the Cubs, underwent successful catheter ablation, in which a tube most often is threaded to the heart to destroy the tissue that triggers the abnormal heart rhythms.
"My goal is to have the procedure done and finally rid myself of this life-threatening disturbance," Kinkel writes in an email. "I want to get on with my music, perform, teach and play more concerts and clubs without such fear. I have so much to live for and far too much fear to live with."
A production and building manager for a suburban not-for-profit agency for 31 years until he was laid off during the current recession, Kinkel now says he hopes to make a full-time living performing music and offering guitar lessons through erickinkel.com. But that would be easier if his heart were repaired.
"It's very unnerving," Kinkel says of the attacks, "and I'm such a spirited person."
Nicknamed "The Kink" as a teenager, Kinkel often characterizes his ailment as a kink in his heart.
Just as he has helped others, an army of local musicians will be chipping in to assist Kinkel. With experience in many genres of music, Kinkel bills the concert as a collection of "love songs, blues tunes and memorable melodies."
Performing with Kinkel will be bassist Dean Milano, author of "The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s and special guest Bob Abrams, formerly of The Buckinghams.
If you goIf you go
What: "A Heart of Gold, With a 'Kink' In It"
When: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
Where: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg
Tickets: $15 in advance and $17 at the door; (847) 895-3600 or erickinkel.com/order.