Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Science project on sibling's transplant

Student depicts baby brother's heart replacement

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Belle Syrett with brother Jayden Strattner-Brown and her project detailing his transplant.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Belle Syrett with brother Jayden Strattner-Brown and her project detailing his transplant. Photo Store

It's as heartfelt a school science fair project as you can possibly imagine.

Belle Syrett hadn't even started school when her terribly ailing baby brother, Jayden Strattner-Brown, then seven months old, was rushed to Edmonton for a heart transplant.

And now, almost five years later, they're both terrifically healthy kids and schoolmates at École Assiniboine in St. James.

"It was very scary at the time -- we didn't know what would happen under the surgery," Belle recalled Monday, sitting in the principal's office with Jayden and her remarkably detailed science fair project on heart transplants.

Belle is in Grade 3, a girl who easily rhymes off the multisyllabic Latin and Greek words that are the prescription medicines, surgical procedures, body parts and medical conditions that continue to be constants in Jayden's life.

The family discussed doing a science fair project this year, said Belle, and her mother came up with the idea. No papier maché volcanoes or "our friend chlorophyll" for this family.

"We knew a bunch about it -- it was a really good idea," said Belle.

Jayden sat smiling as big sister talked, a boy of few words who keeps his own counsel, but pointed to photos of himself as a tiny intubated baby in an Edmonton hospital where he received his new heart.

Jayden, the science fair project explains in great detail, was born with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart too big for his body and that did not beat fast enough.

There is a stunning photograph of their mother holding Jayden's heart in the palm of her hand.

Jayden's getting old enough to begin to understand that photo, said Belle. "He does, sort of. He came to understand some of it."

Principal Stella Hussey said the family hopes the science fair project will raise awareness about organ transplants and the crucial need for donors.

"Some of the kids think it's quite disgusting, the photo of the heart," but her friends all love it and know why it's essential to the project, Belle laughed.

As little as she was in May 2009, Belle has memories of a traumatic time that turned out so happily.

"I remember the day the hospital called my mum. She took Jayden to the hospital and me to my grandmum's."

Jayden stayed in Edmonton for several months, with Belle visiting occasionally.

Jayden is on a lot of medicine and ongoing monitoring. "We have a calendar, and my mom puts Jayden's meds there.

"He gets blood work twice a month. I usually have to come to the blood work at six in the morning," before mom takes the kids to École Assiniboine and heads off to nursing school.

One of the most striking parts of Belle's amazing project is an array of photographs of a disparate range of people in a variety of everyday poses. Which ones, science student Belle asks, have had heart transplants?

Belle will display her project Wednesday at the St. James-Assiniboia School Division science fair at George Waters Middle School.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2014 A2

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