While most parents of 3- and 4-month-old infants are adoring their little one’s smiles and coos, Lehi residents Tammy and Joseph Bowers were instead coping with the fact their baby had a very rare and aggressive form of heart disease. As other babies his age were grabbing and giggling, their son, Landen Bowers, was struggling with the end stages of heart failure and a very grim prognosis.
Landen was born in 2010 with LEOPARD syndrome and given a slim shot at life beyond infancy. It took nine weeks for him to come home from the hospital, and only after doctors warned his parents that he probably wouldn’t be celebrating his first birthday.
Just one month after his homecoming, following an echocardiogram to monitor Landen’s progress, doctors told the Bowers their son was dying — they could take him home and make his life comfortable, or try for a long shot heart transplant. According to Tammy, it was at that moment the pair knew they were ready to fight for their son.
“I’m not going to take my 3-month-old baby home and wait for him to die,” Tammy said. “We had him admitted into the ICU and got him listed for a heart.”
From there it was one miracle after another for the Bowers family. Landen, also named “Lion” and given a stuffed lion to give him strength and courage in his battle, clung to life long enough to find a heart donor.
In an unconventional offer, along with the heart, the donor’s family sent a gift: a small stuffed lamb that their baby had carried.
“It’s just beautiful symbolism they gave us,” Tammy said of the gift. “(Landon’s) middle name is Lion and he had his stuffed lion in his bed the whole time he was in the NICU, at home, and in the ICU. … The stuffed lamb matched the lion perfectly, and came with a picture of their little girl holding that stuffed lamb while she was in the hospital.”
Aside from the sweet gift, Landen’s transplant itself was a miracle for the Bowers family — the first successful “incompatible” heart transplant in the state, meaning the heart, though not a match with Landen’s blood type, was accepted by his body.
It’s been nearly four years since Landen’s story began, and his parents and three siblings couldn’t be more happy that his story is still being shared.
“We are happy to say that almost after four years he is doing incredibly well, and we are grateful for every day we have with him,” Tammy said. “We have learned much over the past four years, and try to give back as much as we can to a community that has given us so much.”
Not everything is easy now for Tammy and the Bowers family, however, as Landen’s rare syndrome brings up a variety of other conditions that must still be addressed on a daily basis. From feeding tubes to leg braces, doctor visits to vital checks, Tammy’s schedule is punctuated with care items for her growing son. With so many things needing to be recorded, accomplished and continued, Tammy knew there had to be a better solution, not just for her family, but for every other family and individual dealing with a similar situation. With that thought in mind, she began the process of creating the first all-in-one medical application, The Pocket Physician.
“I knew there had to be a better way to keep track of all this medical stuff,” Tammy said.
“We have to refill medications, keep track of medical equipment, track heart rate and temperature, correspond with caregivers and keep organized a list of things to do and not to do. … I started looking on the iPhone App Store to see what apps were out there and had to download six to get just a part of what I needed. That’s where I came up with the idea for this app. A lot of people have this need.”
Through yet another series of miracles, Tammy was able to get in contact with the technology company TekVitals in Orem, and is now just months away from launching her new application.
“The first, probably, six months were just development, me trying to figure out what I wanted and researching what other people needed,” Tammy said. “Now we have some amazing future plans in the works. … Every time I doubt what I’m doing or think I’m not a business person, then something miraculous like that happens. Or I meet someone else with a syndrome. This will give doctors more information to help prevent medical mistakes. There’s a lot that can be made better in medical care by patients being more aware of their medical conditions and needs.”
According to Tammy, research for The Pocket Physician app included a variety of individuals with drastically different conditions and needs to create the most comprehensive and useful medical app. The Pocket Physician is designed to not only address a wide variety of medical needs, but will include provisions for recording doctor appointments, medical histories, vital statistics, medical events, nutrition and feeding, medical bill payment schedules, access to a medical library and more.
“A lot of people don’t just have one special needs kid,” Tammy said. “ I have three other kids, and trying to keep up with life and medical care can be kind of overwhelming. ... The nice thing about (this app) is the ability to be able to customize it for your needs. I live it everyday. I’m not just an app developer that wants to create something — this is something that I’m going to use every day.”
It’s been just nine months since the idea for The Pocket Physician came around, and just last Friday its campaign for financing was posted on Indiegogo. Now Tammy is working harder than ever to make that dream a reality for her family and many others. To make The Pocket Physician a reality, the campaign needs to raise $8,000 for an iOS edition and an additional $8,000 to bring the app to Android. Once those funds are raised, Tammy said she hopes the final app will hit the market in July, with any excess funds going to app promotion and medical awareness campaigns.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Tammy said. “It’s nothing I ever expected to do, but when you go home from hospital after you get diagnosed, you really don’t know where to turn. That’s why I want to get this information out, that there’s an amazing tool that can help you in your life.”
According to Tammy, it’s been an interesting and trying four years since Landen’s diagnosis, but, if anything, it’s made her family stronger and her resolve more firm.
“Even with Landen, everything he’s gone through and continues to go through, I still don’t think I would change it because he has changed my life — not just with this app, but in everything: The way that I look at my kids, things I thought were big deals but realized aren’t big deals. ... He toilet-papered the whole floor downstairs, and I could have been mad, but then I thought about how grateful I am that I get to clean up his messes. There was a time I wouldn’t have been able to. I wouldn’t have been able to see him walk or talk. I love that he’s changed my life, and I’m just grateful for every day I have with him. I’m going to fight as hard as I can to have as long as I can with him, but for that I need this tool. I need this app to help me with his care.”
To learn more about Landen’s story or Tammy’s creation of The Pocket Physician, check out their website at lionheartinnovations.com. You can also learn more and donate to make The Pocket Physician a miraculous reality by funding the Indigogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-pocket-physician.