Kari Elizabeth Schoondyke came to us on August 13, 2008. She was beautiful from the first moment we met her. Soon after birth, Kari was found to have congenitalheart disease. She was transported to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where she underwent open heart surgery at the tender age of just 9 days old. Kari’s congenital heart disease was rather complex. She had a large VSD, an interrupted aortic arch, a bicuspid, small aortic valve, and a sub aortic obstruction. Her first surgery was directed at closing the VSD and repairing her aortic interruption. Here recovery was slow but persistent, and we soon took her back home with us early September, 2008.
Over the next several months, Kari did very well. She was becoming stronger, more mobile, and was what everyone considered a completely normal child. She reached the normal milestones- she sat up, started to enjoy baby food, and developed her trademark wave. We soon noticed that Kari loved music- she would sit with me and listen to AC/DC and absolutely love it! Yes, you heard it right, AC/DC! In addition, she absolutely loved the television show “Blue’s Clues”, and would watch with full attention. She began to walk in her walker, and quickly developed a smile that was filled with such enthusiasm; it brightened even the worst days. Simply stated, Kari was an absolute joy for our entire family.
In March, 2009 Kari became ill and started to develop signs of heart failure. This was not unexpected as she still had not had her aortic valve or the sub-aortic obstruction repaired. We anticipated her having the second surgery sometime in the future- perhaps a year or later down the road. But, the need arose sooner than later, and she was admitted back to CHOP to begin preparations for her second procedure. This procedure, a Ross-Konno, was done to complete her congenital heart issues and would hopefully alleviate any significant future problems. Our family handed her off to the surgical team on April 1, 2009. This, unknown to us, was to be the last time we would hold or see our familiar and beloved Kare Bear. Kari would never recover from this hospitalization and we lost her at 12:46pm on April 7, 2009.
Her short life inspired many- both individuals and families alike. She harnessed the power of prayer, brought people to the Lord, and displayed a lifetime of influence in only 7 short months! God was without a doubt, with little Kari each step through her journey. Our pastor, Jim Richmond summed it up the best at her funeral when he said, “It appears that God has used someone who had not yet taken a step or spoken a word to demonstrate to each of us His power, mercy, and love.” Well, I couldn’t agree more. I encourage you to read for yourself the emails we received under “Kari’s Impact” here on the web-site. I’m sure you will agree, it is truly amazing what she accomplished. Not a minute goes by that each of us don’t miss her and feel an incredible void in our lives. We do however find comfort that she is now looking over us from Heaven, without discomfort, without pain, and without sadness. Each member of our family looks forward to reuniting with Kari one day in the glorious confines of Heaven. I imagine she will greet us at the gates, perhaps in her walker, displaying “that smile”, while waving feverishly to each of us as she welcomes us home. For now, we simply wait for this day to arrive… each of us tries to be as patient as possible, but our grief often times, is simply overwhelming.
As a result of Kari’s inspiration and through her struggles, Kari’s Heart Foundation, Inc. was born. Our aim is to provide assistance to other families who are facing a similar situation. Through our time in the hospital, we came to realize just how fortunate we were. The obstacles one must navigate while confronted with a situation like this are not only unimaginable, but for many, prohibitive. The video is a chronicle of Kari’s life and her hospitalizations. Please take a moment to “take in” her story and life. We hope this will allow you a better understanding of our foundations purpose, direction, and explain without words, why Kari’s Heart Foundation came to life.
We hope to have the second part of Kari’s short life available soon, here on her web-site. Please consider joining the Kari’s Heart Foundation family by becoming a volunteer or donating to her memory so we can continue to help others. Feel free to browse through her web-site and read more about her foundation. If you know of a family or child that may benefit from our assistance, please send us an email or call our foundation phone number to let us know. But please at the very least, enjoy your children, hug ‘em often, and tell them daily how much you love them, as life can change in an instant.
The Schoondyke family and Board of Kari’s Heart Foundation, Inc.