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Herma Heart Center

$8 million challenge encourages community to advance pediatric heart care

The Herma Heart Institute at Children’s Wisconsin has become one of the leading pediatric cardiac programs in the world for many reasons, including our world-class doctors and commitment to research. Another key component is the philanthropic support our cardiac program has received, highlighted by the support of the Herma family.

The Herma challenge

Now, through another generous gift, the Herma family is encouraging others to join the effort to continue to advance medical breakthroughs and expand support programs for kids with congenital heart defects. Through Dec. 30, 2017, the Herma family will match gifts designated to our Herma Heart Institute up to $8 million.

Individuals interested in supporting the Herma challenge can visit or call the Children’s Wisconsin Foundation at (414) 266-6100.

Turning heartbreak into hope

Thirty years ago, John and Susan Herma faced the unthinkable. Their beautiful daughter, Leigh, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which several structures in the heart’s left side form incorrectly.

I was a nurse in the cardiac department at the time and still remember standing over Leigh’s bed as doctors described how serious her condition was to her mom and dad. At the time, nearly 90 percent of patients with this condition didn’t survive.

Doctors did all they could do at the time, but after an all-too-short time, Leigh passed away just under 3 months of age.

Inspired by the compassionate care they received and a desire to improve outcomes for other families in the same situation, the Hermas began to give back. Their first gift was a rocking chair to allow other parents to rock their children — a comfort that was not available to them when Leigh was in the hospital. Over time, they continued to step forward with multimillion dollar gifts that allowed the hospital to create the Herma Heart Institute, now one of the nation’s top pediatric cardiac programs.

The impact

In 2001, 100 percent of kids who had surgery for hypoplastic left heart syndrome at Children’s Wisconsin were able to go home. We continue today to have the best peer reviewed published survival rates for children with this condition. John and Susan have been gracious supporters that have assisted us in expanding the number of kids we can care for. Their support allowed us to create the first cardiac neurodevelopment follow-up program in the country. They inspired us to develop a home monitoring program that has improved survival rates and has now been adopted worldwide as best practice.

The latest gift and the matches it will inspire will help continue to advance this work. It will continue to support our research and clinical innovation with a focus on eradicating congenital heart conditions and revolutionizing programs that will improve the quality of life for heart patients and their families. It will save the lives of kids.