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Published: Thursday, 11/18/2010

Baby with heart problem finally goes home

The son of Matthew and Sarah Hammitt of Perrysburg, Bowen had been hospitalized for hypoplastic left heart syndrome since his birth Sept. 9 at the University of Michigan Women's Hospital in Ann Arbor. He underwent the first of three planned heart surgeries when he was less than three days old and is scheduled for the second operation in February.

But Wednesday, Bowen was quietly wide-eyed as he soaked in his new surroundings.

A thin tube that provides a continuous supply of baby formula, taped to his cheek and running through his nose to his stomach, was the only visible sign of a medical issue.

"Yay! We're home! We're home!" Mrs. Hammitt said, lifting Bowen and his car seat.

Mr. Hammitt, meanwhile, who is the lead singer of Christian rock band Sanctus Real, knelt in the driveway as daughter Emmy,

4, eagerly showed him a ladybug she had caught inside a plastic cup. Two-year-old Claire stood by watching all the action, holding a teddy bear and bouncing in place in sparkling pink shoes.

Grandparents Gary and Gail Hammitt and Pam Schooler, and Bowen's uncle Chris Schooler were there to lend a hand as needed.

Adding to the flurry of excitement was the presence of a three-person TV crew from ABC News, filming Bowen's homecoming for a segment to be broadcast by Diane Sawyer at an as-yet undetermined date. Producer James Hill said the Hammitts' story caught his attention when he read an article about Bowen in The Blade last month.

Mrs. Hammitt said she basically lived in Ann Arbor for the last 10 weeks, staying at Bowen's bedside and the Ann Arbor Ronald McDonald House. The daughters shuttled back and forth, staying with relatives in Perrysburg whenever Mr. Hammitt was traveling with his band.

Wednesday, Bowen looked around, not making a sound, while Emmy and Claire leaned into his face, giggling. Each big sister took a turn holding him in her lap while sitting on the couch.

"He doesn't need any more pokes!" Emmy said - her term for hypodermic needles.

No needles, maybe, but the Hammitts - both age 31 - have a lot of responsibilities now that they don't have nurses at their side. Bowen requires 15 medications to be administered five times a day.

In the cozy kitchen, Mrs. Hammitt pulled half a dozen clear plastic bags, each containing several bottles of medicine, from a paper sack and piled them into a large metal basket.

"That's just for the first week!" she said. "I'm thankful, and I praise God, but I'm also freaking out. It's going to be an interesting few months."

She said she got an update Wednesday from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at UM on Bowen's medical bills: $650,000 so far. But virtually all of that is covered by insurance, she added.

Mr. Hammitt said it was "an incredible feeling" for the whole family to be together in their Perrysburg home.

"When they clipped that [hospital ID] bracelet off Bowen's arm, it was kind of a symbol of freedom," Mr. Hammitt said. He held Bowen closely and whispered: "You're gonna get a lot of love here."

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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