ELKHART — The Elkhart General Hospital Foundation wants to put the “heart” in Elkhart.
The foundation has commissioned talented artists from Elkhart County and nearby communities to design and paint large fiberglass heart statues. The hearts will be sold next year to help raise money for high tech equipment necessary for doctors to implant mechanical heart pumps in patients. Nine of the hearts will be on display at the hospital’s Lawn Avenue entrance until mid September.
“Each one has its own personality,” said Jon Housand, the foundation’s executive director. “I think they are all stunning in their own way, and I think they’ll have a big impact on the community.”
Twenty heart statues measuring 5 feet tall and almost 5 feet wide and 25 smaller, 18-inch tall hearts will be auctioned off at a fundraiser on Valentine’s Day in 2014. Proceeds will allow doctors at the Elkhart General Hospital Center for Cardiac Care to implant ventricular assist devices, or VADs.
“There are two types of patients who need these devices,” Housand said. “Either you’re waiting for a heart transplant because you’re heart’s not keeping up, or you’re not eligible for a heart transplant for whatever reason. The devices are implanted within the chest with controls that constantly let blood flow through your heart under some pressure to keep it functioning while you’re waiting for your transplant.”
Housand said patients sometimes have to travel as far as Indianapolis or Chicago for the procedure, but by expanding Elkhart General Hospital’s services with new equipment, patients will be able to stay closer to home for implantation and follow-up treatment.
“We’re already so highly regarded in the field of cardiac surgery, but this is going to take us to the next level,” Housand said.
A portion of the proceeds will also benefit HeartReach Michiana. EGH cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Walter Halloran started the nonprofit organization seven years ago and has supplied more than 400 portable defibrillators to local businesses and nonprofit groups.
The nine heart statues displayed at the hospital will be placed in new locations throughout Elkhart within the next two weeks, Housand said. Locations have not been chosen yet. The hearts will be sold at a gala on Feb. 14 at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart. Housand said sponsorships are available by calling him at 524-7458 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.