EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Most kids don’t have play dates at the hospital, but you do if your name is Meredith Bierman.
She’s quite familiar with the halls at Deaconess Gateway Hospital and loves to visit her friends there.
Equipped with her doctor’s coat and special pink doctor’s kit, she finds joy in visiting a place most people fear.
She finds the joy even with a broken heart.
These play dates, as she calls them, go way back to the day she was born. Her mom and dad, Hannah and Andrew Bierman, remember the day all too well.
“She was born on March 1st," Hannah said. “We had about 24 hours with a supposedly healthy baby. At 24 hours, when they came in to do the pulse ox, they found that her body was not oxygenating properly”
Something was wrong with Meredith’s heart.
Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis sent a helicopter to pick up baby Meredith.
The nurses let Hannah and Andrew swaddle their baby Meredith one last time before the journey.
“When we heard the helicopter, we all kind of stopped and stared at each other," Hannah said, "We just knew that was her leaving.”
The whirlwind began. The Riley doctors diagnosed Meredith with a congenital heart disease called TAPVR (Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return) and later found Meredith had Pulmonary Vein Stenosis. Both are very rare.
“We had heard murmurings from a few doctors at Riley that said ‘You know, we will take you as far as we can go, but this is not a disease many kids survive, so just go on and be prepared that there may come a point when our expertise runs out.’”, Hannah said.
That isn’t a message any parent wants to hear, but it was during that dark time that a light entered the family’s life. Her name is Dr. Huda Elshershari, a pediatric cardiologist at Deaconess Gateway Hospital.
“My first day at Deaconess was March 1, 2016, when Meredith was born.” Dr. Elshershari said.
The Riley doctors referred the Biermans to Dr. Elshershari to save them trips to Indianapolis.
She looked at Meredith’s case and knew there was a 50-50 chance Meredith would survive.
Meredith’s story reminded her of her own story with her baby brother who also fought for his life due to a broken heart.
“Emotionally it did affect me because it brought back my brothers story. I remembered what my family went through with my brother" Dr. Elshershari said. "I wanted to help them. That’s why after they left, I kept thinking about her, and I kept doing my research.”
It was that research that found a clinical trial for Meredith’s condition at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The family agreed. Her procedures would be in Boston, but tests would happen at home with Dr. Elshershari. That’s when those appointments became play dates.
“It’s just the best thing in the world to watch someone take your daughter in and treat her like she is the most important thing in the world, "Hannah said. "That’s what Dr. Elshershari does with Meredith. She treats her like she’s on the moon.”
Meredith’s been off of her clinical trial medication since November.
Her most recent test results showed the disease hasn’t flared up.
That’s news the parents were happy to hear because according to the Boston Children’s Hospital trial and results, if the child reaches 4-years-old, the disease calms down.
That’s why Meredith’s 4th birthday party was a special one.
“There were many times I had no idea if we would make it as far as we went. I didn’t trust hope. I didn’t let myself hope too far out in advance. It is taking everything a day at a time. But now…oh man... She’s miraculous," Hannah said.
You see, most kids don’t have play dates at the hospital, but Meredith Bierman isn’t like most kids.
She may like her bows, the color pink and of course those shoes, but it’s her heart that truly makes her one of a kind.
She has a heart that beat the odds.