Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Dad Gets Tattoo of Daughter's Open-Heart Surgery ‘Zipper' Scar

An extremely rare congenital heart defect has left a 4-year-old Crystal Lake girl with scars all over her body.

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Four-year-old Everly Backe underwent her first open heart surgery just three days after she was born.

In her four years of life, she has undergone eight medical procedures at Advocate Children's Hospital. Doctors say more are on the way.

Everly's father, Matt, says Everly has been asking many questions about her procedures and scars.

"She seems like she’s more aware of what she’s going through," said Matt Backe.

Everly’s biggest scar is on her chest, the point of entry during her open-heart surgeries. Her family calls it her "zipper."

Everly’s mother, Lauren, says it’s her "badge of courage."

"People ask about her scars. Whether it’s her chest or her foot, we try to make it be very positive," said Lauren Backe. "I know as we grow up those are things you can become more self-conscious about."

That got Everly’s dad thinking of ways to make his daughter feel more comfortable as she gets older.

"Strength, sometimes, comes in knowing you’re not alone," said Matt Backe. "If my daughter can do this at just 3 days old, I’m sure my 37-year-old body can do it now."

Referencing the open-heart surgery Everly went through days after birth, Matt Backe decided to get a procedure of his own: a tattoo of his daughter’s “zipper” scar on his own chest.

The tattoo is an exact replica of Everly’s scar on her chest.

"If she becomes self-conscious about it, I can be right next to her and say, the heck with it! Look at us, we both got our zippers," said Matt Backe. "My thought process is that, as she gets older, perhaps it’ll be something that we can bond over or just that she has appreciation that she’s not alone."

Even Everly’s mom is thinking about getting a tattoo to show her support.

Both parents say Everly appreciates the "zipper" tattoo, even asking dad why he was copying her.

"…because he wanted to be special like me," Everly said.

Dr. Joshua Wong of Advocate Children’s Hospital said Everly will need two to three more open-heart surgeries before she’s a fully grown adult. While Everly's complex heart condition is extremely rare, congenital heart disease is very common among newborns.

Advocate Children’s Hospital says 40,000 babies are born with CHD every year.

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