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Photograph of 5-year old Elliott Naftzger on a slide.
Photograph of 5-year old Elliott Naftzger on a slide.
Photograph of 5-year old Elliott Naftzger on a slide.

Give to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

When you're 5 and you've lived through three open heart surgeries, you're still 5.

$29,598 donated!

Thanks for donating to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! During the 2019 fundraiser, June 24—July 5, we raised $29,598 from members and friends of STCU to help keep kids like Elliott on the move.

Like when Elliott Naftzger — who loves coloring, singing, and the "Thriller" video — admires her lips in the mirror. To her parents and doctors, their purplish hue signals low oxygen levels. To Elliott, purple lips are glamorous lips.

"Oh, my lips are so gorgeous," she'll tell her reflection.

Parents and hospital staffs know: Sick kids are still kids. Donations to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals help pay for programs that make it easier for hospitalized kids to be themselves, despite their illness or injury. CMNH also helps pay for diagnostic and lifesaving equipment along with support services, research, and training.

And when you give to CMNH through STCU, every dollar goes to a local hospital — to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital if you live in the Spokane-North Idaho region, or to Virginia Mason Memorial for Tri-Cities donations.

At Sacred Heart, CMNH helped pay for a remodeled playroom that allows children like Elliott to make art, play video games, and spend time with their families and other kids as their bodies heal. CMNH also helps pay for child life specialists, hospital employees who involve families in play therapy to help patients — and their siblings — adjust to hospital life.

Keep kids on the move!

You can help! Donate June 24 through July 5, 2019, at any STCU branch location, call us during business hours at (800) 858-3750, or log into your online banking account and follow the steps to transfer your donation to CMNH:

  1. Click "Transfers" and "Classic."
  2. Click "Transfer to another STCU member" and choose "CMNH" as the last name or business name.
  3. Enter account number: 1000039121.
  4. Click the "Save" button to add the CMNH account for your donation.
  5. Continue with your donation to CMNH by transferring money from any of your accounts. (Note: transfers from your STCU credit card account are subject to cash-advance fees.)

Thank you for your gift!

In Elliott's case, CMNH-funded equipment may help her family stick closer to their Walla Walla home as her care continues.

Elliott needs regular echocardiograms, tests that use sound waves to let doctors see how blood moves through her heart. CMNH recently paid for a mobile echo machine for the Providence Center for Congenital Heart Disease: equipment that can travel to patients. So Elliott's family — mom Rachel, dad Carter, and 7-year-old brother Edmond — hope eventually to be able to stay in their own community for echos, instead of making the six-hour round trip drive to Spokane.

That's a big deal for a family that treasures game nights, evenings spent roasting marshmallows over the fire pit, and walks in their close-knit community.

‘Let's do this'

Elliott has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, signs of her condition first detected during Rachel's routine 20-week ultrasound. The left side of Elliott's heart was severely underdeveloped, too small to do its job: collecting oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumping it to the body.

By 30 weeks into Rachel's pregnancy, doctors at Sacred Heart had used a fetal echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis and presented Rachel and Carter with a medical plan. Rachel would deliver Elliott at Sacred Heart, where the baby would need a ventilator and medication before undergoing, at 4 days old, the first of three planned open-heart surgeries.

In the weeks before the official diagnosis, Rachel and Carter had read about their baby's suspected condition and "pretty much come to terms" with it, Rachel says.

"We cried and we were mad, and then were like, ‘OK, let's do this,'" she says. "You don't want to hear bad news like that, but (the doctors) were confident and calm and had a plan. It didn't feel as scary at that point."

Managing together

After Elliott's first surgery, back at home in Walla Walla, Rachel and Carter weighed the baby every day and checked her oxygen levels, relaying the data to her doctors between visits to Sacred Heart.

Elliott underwent her second surgery at 5 months. This one was more involved, with doctors doing more to alter her heart function. Her third surgery, at age 4, was meant to hold her until adulthood, when she would likely undergo a heart transplant.

Most of the time, the family travels together to Spokane — both parents, both kids — when Elliott requires hospitalization or testing at Sacred Heart. They stay in Elliott's room with her, at a nearby motel, or with a relative who lives nearby.

"We view it as an opportunity to enjoy time together," Rachel says.

Lately Elliott has been struggling with low oxygen levels, Rachel says — those purple lips — so she fatigues easily and runs out of breath. Her body retains too much water, adding to the strain on her heart. Diuretics for the water add strain on her kidneys.

But she is managing for now with medication, an oxygen tank she carries in a backpack, and a lot of lab tests. Her family hopes her health holds for another five years before they may have to move her to the heart-transplant list earlier than they hoped.

"The heart is so complicated and confusing, and hers is more complicated than others," Rachel says.

A kid's passions

When you're 7 and your little sister lugs around an oxygen tank, you're still a big brother. Like when Edmond brags, forgetting his clear advantage, that he runs faster than Elliott.

"Why is that?" his mom will ask him.

"Oh, yeah," Edmond remembers. "Half-heart."

Elliott has never been able to run as fast as other kids, but she's used to it, her mother says. Elliott sings "all day every day," Rachel says. She's often coloring while singing: "Those are her passions."

She's cared for by parents who feel cared for, in turn, by their church community and their families, "not to mention the family we have gained in all our stays in Spokane, the doctors and nurses," Rachel says.

Elliott's third heart surgery was in June 2018. The family stayed in Spokane for more than a month.

Recently Elliott told her mother, "I kind of miss my friends," meaning her medical team at Sacred Heart. She added, "But I don't want to stay in the hospital."