Featured image via Shutterstock and does not show Everly Backe. Photo for representational purposes only.
Everly Backe of Crystal Lake, Illinois, had a difficult start to life. The little girl, now 4, was born with a critical congenital heart condition and underwent three open-heart-surgeries before her first birthday. Though her parents, Matt and Lauren, cannot take away their daughter’s pain, they want her to know that they will be with her every step of the way.
In solidarity with little Everly, Matt got a tattoo on his chest that looks exactly like her surgery scar. Later, Lauren had EKG lines, which show a heart rate, inked on her forearm.
Because Everly’s scar will have to be opened again during future surgeries, the family has taken to calling it her “zipper:” Lauren explains to her daughter that doctors open and close it to help her feel better. The couple say that as Everly has grown older, she has become more aware of her scar.
“I heard Evie make mention about the zipper, just asking more questions than usual,” he told Good Morning America. “My thought was if I could get something that was a replica of it, we could be zipper buddies and she would not have that feeling of being alone.”
Matt’s ink was done by a local tattoo artist, who looked at a photo of Everly while he worked.
“He didn’t want me to be alone,” Everly says of her dad. “He wanted to be special like me.”
Her brother, 10-year-old Jack, says that he is “really happy that they look the same.” He even plans to get one himself when he turns 18, so that he can match his dad and little sister.
Lauren and Matt posted photos of their tattoos on Facebook, and say that they are “quite honestly blown away by the response.”
“We’ve had a lot of people [with congenital heart defects] reach out and say, ‘I had a scar growing up, and I used to cross my arms when I was at the pool because I was self-conscious about it. I could really relate to this,’” says Lauren.
Everly’s parents say that despite fatigue, the 4-year-old is able to attend school and dance classes. They hope to use their story to make a positive change in the lives of other people with heart defects.
“Our hope for Evie is that she gets to live the life she wants to live,” says Lauren. In honor of American Heart Month, the couple has been helping schools kick off the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge.
“We felt very alone when we got Everly’s diagnosis, and it’s not because we don’t have incredible family and friends, but we didn’t know anybody else going through this, and it felt like it was just us,” Lauren says. “And then we found some other heart families, and we’ve become friends with them because you relate in a different way.”