A "dreamcatcher" for young heart transplant patients

11:02 PM, Jan 10, 2010   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

KSDK --Everyday at St. Louis Children's Hospital, they count on good doctors, good nurses and good luck.


 "We do tough stuff around here, we need a little luck, " says heart surgeon Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi

When the Elliot family arrived here they weren't feeling very lucky.

"It's pretty hard, " explains an emotional Brook Elliot.

Her two year old son Matthew Elliot is recovering from a heart transplant.

"You always sympathize with other people and emphathize with them and think that must be difficult and you feel for them but when it's yourself and it's your child there's nothing like it", says Greg Elliot, Matthew's Dad.

Not long ago, Matthew came down with a fever and sore throat from a virus that wouldn't go away.

"Matthew went from being ok to within 48 hours nearly being dead, " explained Dr. Gandhi.

The wait for a donor heart can be long, too long in many cases. What saved Matthew, says his family, in addition to the doctors and nurses were two things. A medical apparatus called the Berlin Heart, a device that assists the pumping of the heart and a good luck charm. A handcrafted "dreamcatcher" that the Elliot family won't let out of their sight.

"Ever since we've gotten it I've kept good track of it, " says Mrs. Elliot. " I don't want anybody to close the window or everytime we move rooms I'm making sure I know where the "dreamcatcher" is at."

It all started with 12 year old Jamie Chilese who had been waiting for a heart transplant for almost two months. One day, with the art therapist, she made the "dreamcatcher", which legend has it catches bad dreams. She placed a little heart just below the web. Four days later she got her heart.

She then passed it on to another patient, 16-year-old Anthony Workmann from Ramsey, IL. His heart arrived a few weeks later.

Then,  Anthony passed it on to 3 month old Justin Eisenmann.

"Anthony was crying when he brought it into Justin. Justin has been his little buddy, " says Justin's mom Laura Eisenmann.

The Eisenmann's were rushed to St. Louis Children's hospital all the way from Skyler, Nebraska.

"Doctors gave us a 5% chance that he would make it a month to wait for his heart if he didn't go on the Berlin heart, " says Doug Eisenmann, Justin's dad.

Just a few weeks after getting the "dreamcatcher". Justin got his new heart.  

With the "dreamcatcher", each family writes a personal note and that's what the Eisenmann's did when they passed it on to Matthew.

"It says Justin I hope you get big and strong on the Berlin like I did", says Brook Elliot, reading from the note. "that way you get a good healthy heart. Best wishes, love Justin, Doug, Laura and Josh."

Through all these surgeries, also stitched together was a bond between the families. That emotional support may be the best medicine of all.

"Its vitally important. Its probably more important than anything that we do, " says Dr. Gandhi.

"Miracles happen here everyday, " says Greg Elliot. "But to hear it from another family is a lot different than hearing it from the doctor."

The prognosis for all these children is excellent and all the families know the reason is more than just luck. But sometimes, luck is just belief in the possible.

"We feel absolutely blessed, " says Mrs. Eisenmann.

"I feel lucky because everyday we get to spend with him is the best day ever, " added Mr. Elliot.

As it's passed from one family to the next, the legend of the "dreamcatcher" continues to grow. For the hearts that were transplanted and the hearts that were touched.


A reminder. If you have a unique positive story or know of an individual who is making a difference just out of the goodness of his/her heart, let us know at mbush@ksdk.com

















































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