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Child's courage inspires Roseville woman to go for world record

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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When Christina Lochmiller begins to feel the pangs of sleeplessness setting in during the 26th hour of her attempt to crack the Guinness World Record, it will not be fame that keeps her eyes open — it will be the image of a dark-haired little girl strapped in wires and tubes.

At 5 a.m. Monday, July 23, Lochmiller will attempt to set a world record at the state fair for the longest consecutive Ferris wheel ride in history. The Roseville woman will be pushing herself to the limit, all to raise money and awareness for the cardiac unit of the UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Lockmiller was inspired to get involved by her best friend’s 3-year-old daughter, Abbey Beers, who has been a patient at the hospital almost since the moment she was born.

For Katie and Mike Beers, what should have been one of the happiest days of their lives quickly turned into the most frightening after they learned Abbey had been born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. A staff of doctors at UC Davis Children’s Hospital had only days to save the infant’s life. Abbey underwent a delicate and highly complex open-heart surgery when she was less than a week old.

“Without surgery, this syndrome kills 95 percent of kids who have it in the first month,” said Dr. Garry Raff, one of physicians involved with Abbey’s procedure. “And it is 100 percent fatal to children in the first six months, if they don’t undergo surgery.”

UC Davis Children’s Hospital was one of only four hospitals in Northern California capable of doing the operation. According to Raff, that’s because it involves a literal reconfiguration of the infant’s heart and lungs. “There are only a handful of procedures that are considered to have a risk this high,” he explained. “There is no way to exaggerate how serious it is. And it’s not a situation where families would want to be traveling hours away while their kids are going through this, or the weeks and months of recovery.”

Abbey spent the next six days with her chest left open as doctors watched for lethal swelling and signs of infection. She’s since undergone two additional surgeries. Katie Beers says that blood thinners challenge her daughter with constant bruising. Abbey’s condition also leaves her exhausted when trying to play with her friends.

“She’s been a rock star since the beginning,” Katie Beers told the Press Tribune. “She gets right through it. She never complains. She’s never embarrassed to show her scar or talk about her condition.”

One of the adults watching Abbey’s ongoing battle was Lochmiller, a close family friend. Now that emotional odyssey has driven Lochmiller to want to get involved in raising money for the cardiac unit of UC Davis Medical Center. “I’ve always wanted to break a world record,” she recalled. “And seeing how congenital heart disease has affected Abbey’s life gave me the real mission to do it. The money being put into UC Davis’s miracle network has literally saved the lives of thousands of babies that couldn’t have been saved 10 years ago.”

Anyone wanting to help can make donations by visiting www.abbeyhelpsbrokenhearts.com. Another option is texting “kidheart” to 50555, which allows a $10 donation to be billed to the donor’s cell phone account. Or, people can show up to the state fair and ride the Ferris wheel with Lochmiller for a donation.

Lockmiller is also looking for volunteers to work on July 23 as Guinness World Record time-watchers and monitors. In order to break the record, Guinness has strict guidelines for everything from bathroom breaks to stretching. Anyone who wants to volunteer to be on the Guinness team, or to work in the donation booth, can email Lochmiller at wheeldealforkids@yahoo.com.

“I feel like I’m ready for the challenge,” Lochmiller said. “After all, this is close to my heart.”