Diocesan News

St. Joseph Parish to Host Drive Honoring Young Patient

LINCOLN (SNR) - Six-year-old Patrick Medinger is a lot like all the other kindergarteners at St. Joseph Catholic School in Lincoln, and a lot like all the other kids at his parish, St. Michael Church in Cheney. He’s a constant buzz of activity – learning, laughing, playing.

Patrick wouldn’t be as healthy as he is, however, were it not for an expert medical team and the generous gift of blood from many anonymous donors.

"When he was a baby," Patrick’s mother, Jenny Medinger, said, "If anybody had told me he’d be like this now… I wouldn’t have believed them."

Shorty after he was born, Patrick began turning blue. Every breath was a struggle. A nurse grabbed a stethoscope and detected a heart murmur.

The next thing Mrs. Medinger and her husband Charlie knew, Patrick was being flown to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

"I got to hold him for a few minutes and then they took him away," Mrs. Medinger recalled, her voice still wistful at the thought of those awful, scary hours when they didn’t know exactly what was wrong with their second child.

The diagnosis was congenital heart disease (CHD). Specifically, Patrick was born with pulmonary artisia with a ventricular septal defect. Basically, he was missing a pulmonary artery, and he had a hole in his heart.

Patrick’s first surgery occurred when he was only four days old. But that was just a temporary fix –"re-plumbing, you could say," as Mrs. Medinger puts it. The surgeons had to wait until Patrick was large enough for a real solution.

Five months later, he was given a homograph (donated tissue) and the hole was closed. Through each surgery, multiple blood transfusions kept his little body going.

At the time, the Medingers were just grateful that their little boy could be saved.

"We were cognizant of the more obvious things," Mrs. Medinger said. "The surgeons, the nurses… It was some time before it occurred to us, ‘Gosh, think of all the blood he’s had.’"

She continued, "You just presume that blood will be there when you need it. But now we know how important it is to keep that cycle going."

Seeking insight from other parents of kids with CHD, the Medingers joined Midwest Heart Connection. This group provides information, resources and support to CHD patients and their families in Nebraska and the surrounding areas. More than 400 families are members.

Midwest Heart Connection facilitates fundraising for pediatric cardiology research that will help CHD patients live longer, healthier lives. They also partner with the American Red Cross to host blood drives like the one scheduled for Dec. 30 at St. Joseph Church in Lincoln.

The Holiday Blood Drive is a family-friendly event. Donors and their families can feast on sandwiches from Mr. Goodcents and other refreshments. Additionally, donors will receive a t-shirt and a chance to win great raffle prizes, including a $100 Visa gift card.

"It wasn’t our aim to make Patrick a focal point," Mrs. Medinger stressed, "but if we can take the difficult things that have happened in Patrick’s life and turn it into this large, pay-it-forward day, we can count that as one of the positive outcomes of Patrick’s sufferings."

Patrick’s outlook is positive. Mrs. Medinger says that compared to his older and younger brothers, he’s just as healthy and active as they are. He may not ever run a marathon, but there are no restrictions on this bright, energetic little boy…with significant thanks to the anonymous donors who gave Patrick the blood he needed.

All blood types are needed to help maintain a sufficient supply for patients like Patrick. The need is especially great for type O negative. Type O negative blood, the universal blood type, is always in high demand because it can be transfused to patients with any blood type, especially in emergency situations.

To donate, call 1-800-RED-CROSS to schedule your appointment.

On December 30, bring your blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification. Individuals who are at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and are generally in good health may be eligible to donate blood. (High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.)

For more information about the 2010 Holiday Blood Drive honoring Patrick Medinger, contact St. Joseph Catholic Church at 402-483-2288. For support and information about CHD, visit Midwest Heart Connection’s website at www.midwestheartconnection.com.

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