Kindred Family Story

Published On 08/13/2013

LaVey Kindred expected to spend her birthday in a Las Vegas hospital while her infant son, Jett, recovered from heart surgery. Instead, Kindred and her family landed on the other side of the country – at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

A week before Jett was scheduled to undergo surgery in Las Vegas, LaVey found another mom on Instagram whose child had the same heart defect as Jett, tetralogy of Fallot. tetralogy of Fallot involves four abnormalities in the heart’s structure that is present at birth. The fellow mom, Kim Phalin, lives in San Diego, but is a native Memphian.

Through the Facebook group Heart Moms Unite, -- a support group for families with children who have similar heart defects – the Kindreds met other parents and were introduced to Dr. Christopher Knott-Craig, cardiothoracic surgeon and co-director of Le Bonheur’s Heart Institute.

“Everyone started posting post-operation pictures of their kids with Dr. Knott-Craig and I was thinking, ‘who the heck is this guy everyone has pictures with?’ I asked and found out it was Dr. Knott-Craig.”

Kindred told Phalin she was interested in bringing Jett to Memphis to see Dr. Knott-Craig. Phalin was ecstatic and offered support. Jett soon was scheduled for surgery the next Sunday in Memphis.The next few days were a whirlwind for the Kindred family, but LaVey’s new Facebook friends and Le Bonheur’s staff made the journey easier. Once in Memphis, they were taken to FedExFamilyHouse, a home-away-from-home for families traveling to Le Bonheur from out of town.

“It was so much nicer than we expected,” LaVey said. “I was blown away. It is hard to not be at home but FedExFamilyHouse has made it easier given the situation.”

“Before the surgery we told ourselves, ‘if it was this smooth to get us out here, then I know we are at the right place.’” Tyson said. “It wasn’t even this smooth at home”

Another Memphian and Heart Institute patient, April Parker, stepped in to help the Kindreds. Parker’s son, CJ, was also born with tetrology of Fallot and had been helping the Kindred family since their arrival in Memphis.

“Kim and I wanted to help make this difficult process as easy and as smooth as we could,” April said. LaVey, meanwhile, says their efforts were invaluable.

“Having a sick child is pretty overwhelming but having an idea of what it was going to be like and what was going on made it so much easier,” said LaVey, who says she’ll now return the favor.

“We want to pay it forward,” LaVey said. “We want to tell other people about our experience here and help others like we were helped. We have formed such a connection, unless you are in the situation you don’t really know what someone is going through - we can now tell people, ‘we have been there, we know what you are going through and this is what is going to happen.”