Dreamcatcher brings hope to heart patients

9:59 PM, Mar 14, 2011   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - There is no medicine like hope.

"It makes a big difference," says Dr. Patrick Broderick.

And there is a lot of hope these days, in the cardiac intensive care unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital.  12-week-old Brilee Marriott is recovering nicely from a heart transplant.

"She's doing really good," says her mom, Jennifer Crippen.

You can find almost a dozen expensive machines monitoring Brilee's every breath in her hospital room. You can also find one very inexpensive art and crafts project hanging over her bed.

"We got it on Valentine's Day and Brilee got her heart the very next day," says Crippen.

When 18-month-old Ruth Yarborough was born, doctors weren't sure if she would make it.

"Ruth was born with basically half a heart," explains Dr. Broderick.

Just six minutes after she was brought into the world, she was brought into surgery to keep her alive.

"I was terrified," says Ruth's mom, Laura Yarbrough.

Ruth needed also needed a transplant but for a baby, the wait for a donor heart can be long. She spent the first 8 months of her life in the hospital.

"Her life basically consisted of living in a crib with tubes sticking out of her," says Dr. Broderick.

Then one day while her daughter was getting her usual battery of tests, Laura got a present. Someone handed her that art project we talked about earlier, a hand-crafted Native-American dreamcatcher that has become legendary in these halls.

"And I called my husband and I was like Josh we don't have a heart but we have hope", says Yarbrough.

"It didn't feel real. It felt like we actually got a heart that day," says Josh Yarbrough, Ruth's dad.

The dream catcher was made several years ago by 12-year-old heart patient Jamie Chilese as art therapy. She'd been waiting two months for a heart, but four days after she made the dreamcatcher, she got one. So, she passed it on to the next child waiting for a heart hoping it would bring them good luck. It did, and it's been passed on ever since.

Five days after Ruth got the dreamcatcher, she got her heart.

"Prayers are answered," says Laura Yarbrough. "Completely all in God's hands."

Each family attaches a small handmade heart below the web of the dream catcher which we're told is why it catches hearts instead of bad dreams. Even the doctors here who usually only deal with science and fact are beginning to take notice.

"It's something for us to believe in too," says Dr. Broderick. "It takes us out of the routine of facts and figures."

When the family passes on the dreamcatcher, they also pass on this little notebook, with a personal message inside.

"That's what the dream catcher symbolized," says Josh Yarbrough. "It symbolized the road and the journey these kids had taken."

The dreamcatcher will watch over Brilee for a while longer and then it'll be passed on again. Believing in its power is just a matter of following your heart.


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