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Dad gets tattoo to match 4-year-old daughter's heart surgery scar so she doesn't feel alone

Everly's elder brother Jack wants to get the matching tattoo himself and has vowed to get one when he turns 18.

Dad gets tattoo to match 4-year-old daughter's heart surgery scar so she doesn't feel alone
Image source: Facebook/lauren.backe

After a 4-year-old girl underwent three open-heart surgeries, her parents got tattoos that match her scars show her they were in it with her. Everly was born with a critical congenital heart defect and had surgeries before she turned one. The scars have remained there since and it appeared to be bothering the now four-year-old as she kept asking questions about it. Evie's scars will have to be opened again when she undergoes future heart surgeries. As a result, the family calls her scar a zipper that doctors will have to open and close. They devised the word to help Everly understand and make her feel better. Matt Backe, her father, got a tattoo to match the scar on Everley so she didn't feel alone. Backe, whose family hails from Crystal Lake, Illinois, became her "zipper buddy," reported Good Morning America.


Everly's family calls her Evie affectionately. Evie had her first surgery when she was just 3 days old. As she grew older, she became more aware of the scar, that wasn't there on anyone else's body. It made her feel different and that's when Matt Backe decided to get the tattoo resembling her scar. "I heard Evie make mention about the zipper, just asking more questions than usual," he said. "My thought was if I could get something that was a replica of it, we could be zipper buddies and she would not have that feeling of being alone." With the help of a talented local tattoo artist, Matt Backe was able to recreate the scar on his chest.  


Since getting the tattoo, Evie constantly points fingers at his 'scar' and then back at hers, speaking about how similar they are. "He didn't want me to be alone. He wanted to be special like me," said  Everly about her dad's tattoo. Everly's mom, Lauren Backe, decided to join in as well, getting a tattoo of EKG lines showing a heart rate, on her forearm beside Everly and Jack, her elder son's first initials. Jack, 10, himself wants to become a zipper buddy and has vowed to get the matching tattoo when he turns 18. "It really makes me happy that they look the same," said Jack about his Dad having a tattoo matching Everly's scar.


Lauren Backe shared images of the tattoos and the scar on Facebook. She was "blown away" by the responses from friends, family, and well-wishers. "We've had a lot of people [with congenital heart defects] reach out and say, 'I had a scar growing up, and I used to cross my arms when I was at the pool because I was self-conscious about it. I could really relate to this,'" said Lauren Backe. "We've been quite honestly blown away by all of the people reaching out and all of the support."


Backes knew as early on that their child was going to have heart complications. When Lauren was 33 weeks pregnant with Everly, they were warned that the child could have heart complications. They did their research and found a hospital to treat her, with Everly having her first surgery within 3 days from being born. Even after returning home, Everly was fed using a feeding tube and she was also attached to an oxygen tank for several months. Lauren Backe recalls Everly and the family spending the first months of the child's life in and out of hospitals.


While Everly continues to be on medication, she now attends preschool and even takes dance classes. The Backes are now hoping technology and research on congenital heart defects develop fast enough that it benefits Everly in the future when she is expected to have heart surgeries. "Our hope for Evie is that she gets to live the life she wants to live," said Lauren Backe. For starters, she wants to be in a dance recital this December when she hopefully gets to play a penguin in "The Nutcracker."

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