Michael's Family Steps Up to Say Thanks

At 8 a.m. on January 27, several thousand “steppers” will be anxiously waiting for 5-year-old patient champion Michael Lane to blow the horn signaling the start of the 16th annual Aon Step Up for Kids presented by KPMG stair climb to the top of the Aon Center to benefit Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.  Among the steppers ready to climb 80 floors will be Michael’s parents, Lisa and Evan, and other members of their “Team Mikey Frannie,” showing their appreciation for the hospital where Michael underwent life-transforming heart surgery.
 
When Michael was 2, his pediatrician detected that he had a slight heart murmur, which the doctor attributed to an iron deficiency. Two years later, at the end of the summer, Michael seemed tired and lethargic. His doctor detected a stronger murmur, and recommended that he be seen by a heart specialist at Lurie Children’s former facility, Children’s Memorial Hospital.
 
After examining him, cardiologist Guy Randolph, MD, ordered diagnostic tests that not only confirmed that Michael had an irregular heartbeat but, more alarmingly, also a hole in his heart and a cleft mitral valve. Dr. Randolph explained to Lisa and Evan that their little boy’s heart had to work twice as hard to pump blood through his body. Unless Michael underwent surgery to correct the defects, the outlook was grim.
 
“Hearing that was very difficult,” says Lisa. “Even now I get emotional just thinking about it.”
 
Several weeks later, Michael underwent open heart surgery by a team led by Carl Backer, MD, head of the Division of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery, to repair both the hole in Michael’s heart and his cleft valve. 
 
Although Michael was in the hospital for less than a week, the hospital stay was a family affair, with his parents and his two sisters, Ella, 10, and Maia, 8, at his bedside for much of the time. His sisters also benefited from some of the programs available from the hospital’s Family Services department, which, through the affiliated organization K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, is the beneficiary of funds raised at Step Up for Kids. 
 
"At first Ella and Maia were scared to see Michael at the hospital, and I wasn’t fully able to explain what Michael was going through to them," says Lisa. "A Child Life specialist explained the procedure he underwent by helping the girls make a doll that had also undergone 'surgery.'"
 
A Child Life specialist visited Michael in his room and brought him a crafts projects and puzzles to help occupy his time. "He loved it!" says Lisa. "The Family Services programs were such an important part of our stay at the hospital.” 
 
Lisa says that after coming home from the hospital Michael bounced back from surgery very quickly and resumed his normal activities – playing “Star Wars,” going to the beach, the park and playing with his sisters. “He’s energetic, loving and is everybody’s friend,” she says. “In fact, his kindergarten teacher says he’s the most popular kid in his class.”
 
The Lanes decided to participate in the 2012 Step Up for Kids after seeing a poster for it shortly after Michael’s surgery. Their efforts raised more than $7,000 for the hospital.
 
“We felt the need to give back to the hospital,” says Lisa. “The doctors were fabulous. They saved Michael’s life. And the nurses, respiratory therapists and Child Life specialists did so much for our family.”
 
Prior to the 2012 Step Up for Kids, Lisa says she had never participated in a stair climb before. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, but I made it up to the top floor!” she says.
 
Michael and his sisters also contribute to the hospital by donating new books, toys and crafts they receive as birthday gifts to Lurie Children’s.
 
“Even before Michael’s surgery we tried to instill the importance of giving to help others to our kids,” says Lisa. “We talk about how there are people who are not as lucky as we are who need help. If you have healthy children, you are blessed. But you never know how much you’ll depend on Lurie Children’s until you hear from a doctor that something is wrong with your child. And when you see the faces of the people whose children are not leaving the hospital so quickly, you want to do whatever you can to help them. Even the smallest gift can make a huge difference.”