CALEDONIA, Mich. — A Caledonia family is using her name and love of cute outfits to help families in a similar situation.
“The goal is to ensure whether they get 100 kids a year or 300, we keep enough there for every kid there to get one,” said Zac Sherlund.
This week, Zac and his wife, Taylor, will launch “Harper’s Heart Closet.” The initiative aims to give a swaddle and hat or bow, depending on the baby’s gender, to each baby admitted to the cardiac intensive care unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
The closet is named after their daughter, Harper, who spent her entire life in the cardiac ICU at DeVos Children’s.
“One day when Harper was alive, we were just sitting in her room and she was sleeping and he just said, ‘What about Harper’s closet?’ said Taylor. “And he just explained what he wanted to do.”
“Our family couldn’t see her for most of it, so they compensated by buying her swaddles and bows,” Zac said. “She always had this vibrant personality and we dressed her accordingly.”
Harper had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
“Her heart was very unique,” said Taylor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s a congenital heart disease that impacts 1,025 babies each year and affects normal blood flow through the heart.
“The left side of her heart was underdeveloped,” said Zac. “Normally [it] can be undeveloped. Hers was underdeveloped.”
In addition to HLHS, the Sherlund’s say doctors diagnosed Harper with CHARGE Syndrome shortly after birth.
The genetic disorder causes a pattern of abnormalities that differ from child to child, like vision and growth delays.
“That gave her a set of complications on top of a heart issue,” Zac said.
Harper endured five surgeries, most of them heart related, but in August, she died at three months old.
“Harper showed us what resiliency is and what being tough means,” Zac said. “That helped push us through what was going on.”
The Sherlund's want Harper’s Heart Closet to provide comfort to the families in the cardiac ICU. They believe the patterned swaddles, tiny bows, and solid-colored hats may help parents in the ways it did for them.
“It was something that distracted us and nurses were excited about it,” Zac said. “Keep hope and to know that, not every story ends up like ours. Keep, you know, just being strong for your little one and keep persevering and find the day to day success.”
To donate to the initiative, people can Venmo @harpersheartcloset.