A routine visit for their 5-year-old son, Trevor, turned into a terrifying experience for Will and Sheri Klemkowski of Lewes, who have started a drive for pajamas and toys to help support other families who find themselves in a similar situation.
During the January appointment, Trevor’s pediatrician, Dr. Nancy Gideon, detected an irregular heartbeat, Will said. After an EKG, the family was told to go straight to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children’s Hospital.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Will said. “We had no idea how serious the situation was.”
About 60 people were in the hospital waiting room, Will said, but his son was immediately taken for treatment.
“About 10 different doctors came to see Trevor, who looked like he had nothing wrong with him,” Sheri said.
Clinicians asked if anyone in the family had heart disease or died suddenly; Will and Sheri said no one did.
“We started freaking out,” Sheri said; Trevor was admitted to intensive care.
Doctors found that the upper muscle of his heart was beating normally, but the lower part was beating extremely fast, a condition called ventricular tachycardia.
“That’s very rare for a kid his age,” Will said. “Basically his heart was racing. Eventually he would get tired of fighting and stop.
Doctors hope Trevor will recover from his condition, Sheri said, and he will be on medication for a year. He could have his heart removed next year if the condition persists, Sheri said.
Trevor spent five days in the hospital, a length of stay the family was unprepared for, Will said. Luckily, one relative was able to be with Trevor the whole time, but other families aren’t so lucky.
“Some kids are there for months, years,” Will said. “Some never come out.”
“We didn’t think we would be here this long,” Sheri said. “We weren’t prepared.”
One day, a child specialist came into Trevor’s room, bringing him playdough, a new box of Legos, shark pajamas, a blanket, and a teddy bear.
“His confusion and fear went out the window,” Will said. “We saw that.”
Shortly after the family returned home, Will and Sheri knew they wanted to do something to give back. A pajama and toy drive held during American Heart Month in February to help other hospitalized children in Nemours/AI duPont was perfect.
The drive gained momentum online, Will said, and friends and local businesses eagerly pitched in to help. The Klemkowskis worked with child therapists from Nemours/AI duPont to determine their exact needs.
Donation drop-off centers were hosted by RISE Fitness, Shell We Bounce, Iron Source Georgetown, Beacon Pediatrics and Harry’s Hardware. Friends Bill and Anne Brooks, Eric Blondin of State Farm Insurance, Scot Dostal of Atlantic Prime Mortgage and Alex Hawes helped raise money to purchase specific items from an Amazon wishlist.
Will said he saw the Cape Town community come together for others in times of need, and this time was no different.
By the end of the month, hundreds of donations for children ranging from infants to teenagers had filled the halls of the Klemkowski home.
“I want to thank the community of South Sussex County,” Will said. “They helped Trevor, and we’re going to pay him to help other kids.”
The Klemkowskis plan to hold a campaign each February and may even start a nonprofit to focus on children hospitalized for just a few days or for an extended stay, Will said.
Right now, the family is eager to deliver a trailer full of toys, blankets, pajamas and hope to the children, Will said, some of whom are fighting for their lives.