LOUISBURG, Mo. — Giving the grieving family a memory they will always cherish is the goal behind a new CoxHealth program called “Heartbeat in a Bottle.”
The program takes an EKG showing someone’s final heartbeats is printed and put into a tiny bottle.
The bottle, along with a personalized note, is given to the family in honor and memory of their loved one.
“For them to be already busy and to take the time out of their busy workday to do something like this, it takes a special kind of person I feel like,” Samantha Umfleet was one of those who received a “Heartbeat in a Bottle.”
Carolyn Dale Van Middlesworth was Umfleet’s grandmother.
“My grandma was my best friend,” Umfleet said. “My secret keeper. My hero. She raised my brother and I.”
Last November, Van Middlesworth went to a walk-in clinic in Buffalo to get a dog bite checked out.
Umfleet tagged along, only to notice something more concerning.
“She started grabbing onto her chest,” Umfleet said. “Right then we knew something was wrong. It was not just a dog bite.”
Van Middlesworth was taken to Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar where she faced yet another setback.
“One of her aneurysms started leaking,” Umfleet said.
In the aorta.
Then, Van Middlesworth was airlifted to CoxHealth in Springfield.
Doctors said her leak was big enough to require surgery a problem for a 74-year-old in chemotherapy for stage four cancer.
“They said that she wouldn’t survive on the operating table,” Umfleet said.
Four days later, the Umfleet family said their final goodbyes.
“The words I told her was I would take care of grandpa as I was about to leave, they hand us this,” Umfleet said.
A “Heartbeat in a Bottle.”
“There was not one of them but two of them. One for my brother and I,” Umfleet said. “My brother keeps his in his safe because it’s something he treasures, and I keep mine in my car. That was our thing. I would just go get her and we would go for car rides and we would go on our coffee dates.”
“As nurses I mean we want to help our families heal also. There’s always going to be those families and patients that really touch your heart,” Karyn Hembree started the “Heartbeat in a Bottle” initiative at CoxHealth.
One of Hembree’s patients died in 2019, which inspired her to start CoxHealth’s new program.
“Just to show that we care,” Hembree said. “Just to have some kind of keepsake.”
20 to 30 families have received a “Heartbeat in a Bottle” which comes from old IV medicine vials the hospital rinses and cleans.
“I hope that this can go forward to other hospitals here in town as well as all over so that other units are doing this routinely for their patient’s families,” Hembree said.
Before Van Middlesworth passed away she was also taking care of her husband who had stage four brain cancer. Her husband died two months later