Dateline NBC Profiles Family’s Heart Journey
The show will focus on Stacy and Jason Bingham and their five children from North Powder, Oregon. Though the parents are healthy, their kids’ lives have been turned upside down by heart disease. Three of the Bingham children were diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to be enlarged and stretched, resulting in a heart too weak to pump efficiently. In addition, their two other children have heart findings that are suspicious, but not definitive.
The result? Sierra, 13, and Lindsey, 9, have both had heart transplants at Packard Children’s. Brother Gage, 4, has a pacemaker. Megan, 11, and Hunter, 6, are undergoing close observation to determine how their hearts develop. Dateline NBC will tell the emotional story of how this very loving family is coping with such an extraordinary situation, and how Packard Children’s has guided the family with world-class care.
It’s a story of remarkable coincidence. “When Sierra received her heart transplant in 2006,” recalled dad Jason, “we thought that was the end of it.” But in spring 2012, Lindsey became sick with symptoms eerily similar to Sierra’s, and the Children’s Heart Center then discovered all the kids had developed heart issues over time. Lindsey was placed on the heart transplant list, and received a Berlin Heart bridge-to-transplant device on July 1, the same day brother Gage was implanted with a pacemaker. And after months of living in the hospital while the Berlin Heart kept her stabilized, when did Lindsey receive her donor heart? On Valentine’s Day of this year.
Pediatric cardiologist Daniel Bernstein, MD, has guided much of the family’s care. “We’ve seen other families with similar genetic patterns,” said Bernstein, “so we have deep experience providing support, including genetic consultation. Some of these families had children who were born in the pre-transplant era or before the development of support devices like the Berlin Heart. All of us are very thankful that we have these options available for children today.”
Dateline cameras were there for many of the family’s highs and lows, including the drama of Lindsey’s transplant surgery. Additionally, the program will tell how parents Stacy and Jason relocated the entire family to the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford for more than a year. Despite the scary medical challenges, Stacy and Jason still juggled their children’s band rehearsals, basketball games, homework, parent-teacher conferences, Jason’s job, and more.
“This is an absolutely amazing family,” Bernstein said. “Throughout multiple adversities, the Binghams have shown calm, compassion and even good humor. They’re role models on how to parent in the face of incredible stresses and challenges.”
“Somehow we made it all work, and we have a lot of new friends through our church, community and schools,” Jason said. “Of course, we have good friends throughout Packard Children’s. At times, it almost felt like we were raising our kids in a hospital setting.”
The program will conclude with a poignant family homecoming May 31 in Oregon, with the Binghams recapturing a sense of normalcy that seemed so elusive for so long. “We will be running around our own house again,” Jason said, adding that bike riding, planting a garden, family camping and cutting firewood are high on the to-do list.
“It’s amazing what doctors and medicine and the human body can do,” said Jason, reflecting on the strength of all involved. “There were times when it felt like going home was never going to happen, and that the wait for Lindsey’s transplant would drag on forever. But all the kids are doing well right now, and we thank everyone for their support. Despite all we have been through, it’s actually been a great experience, and it’s almost hard to say goodbye.”
• Information on the Children’s Heart Center at Packard Children’s
• Our pediatric heart transplant survival rates lead the nation
• What is dilated cardiomyopathy?
• Packard Children’s helped pioneer the Berlin Heart that supported Lindsey Bingham until transplant
• Dateline NBC site
The Bingham family is excited to finally be returning home to Oregon. Pictured with parents Jason and Stacy are, L-R, Sierra, Hunter, Lindsey, Gage and Megan. (Photo courtesy of The Family Album Project).
In case you missed the Dateline television premiere, you can view the video segments and "web exclusives" at the following links:
Web Exclusive #1: Thanking unknown donor
Web Exclusive #2: About the Berlin Heart at Packard/Stanford
Web Exclusive #3: A social worker’s perspective
Web Exclusive #4: California Transplant Donor Network “The Gift of Life”