A huge part of the medical industry is placed on the caregivers. Everything that doctors rely upon is what we give them.
We’ve written about LionHeart a lot here at Beehive Startups. And, to be honest, it’s been incredibly difficult to remain unbiased and not actively root for founder Tammy Bowers and LionHeart to succeed. In our first year of covering Utah’s startup scene, no company has made more of an impact on the people here at Beehive Startups. No other startup has transformed us into staunch, vocal advocates — objectivity be damned. No other founder has made us cry while writing their story.
It’s easy to understand why. No other startup was founded because of Landen Bowers.
Just after Landen was born, his father, Joe Bowers, raced to the hospital gift shop, quickly purchased a stuffed lion, and hurried back to the delivery room to place it on the side of his newborn son’s bed. Time was precious. Every second mattered.
Landen was born with LEOPARD syndrome — a rare genetic disorder with significant cardiac abnormalities, severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy being the most common. Landen’s doctors didn’t give him much of a chance.
“When we were taking him home from the NICU after nine weeks of being there, the cardiologist said, ‘I just want you to know that he’s not going to make it to his first birthday,” Tammy told me over the phone the first time we ever talked.
I remember that phone call well. It came at the end of a very long day. Beehive Startups was only two months old, and I was still splitting my time between Izeni and a blog no one read. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to spend the rest of my life underneath a couple of blankets. I almost called Tammy to cancel our interview. I felt like cancelling Beehive Startups. I just didn’t think I could get through another call.
With tears clouding my vision, I felt like such a selfish fool as Tammy told me what it was like to receive that news while standing in front of the hospital, waiting for her husband to pull the car around to take Landen home for the first time.
“I told her, ‘I don’t want to take him home. I don’t want to wake up to my son dead,’” said Tammy.
The cardiologist responded by saying, “Well, there’s nothing that anyone’s going to be able to do. It’s going to be quick.”
Just 10 days later, following an echocardiogram to monitor Landen’s progress, doctors told Tammy her son was experiencing in-stage heart failure.
“They told us we could take him home and enjoy what little time we had left, or we could try for a long shot heart transplant,” said Tammy.
Tammy Bowers is a believer. As I’ve gotten to know her this past year, nothing has stood out to me more than Tammy’s ability to fervently cling to hope when hopelessness abounds.
Tammy Bowers believes in long shots.
Landen stayed in the hospital for four weeks while his parents stayed by his bedside, praying for a miracle. As he approached his fourth weekend in the NICU, Landen’s doctors said, come Monday, it was time for the Bowers to go home.
That weekend, in Iowa, a little girl’s heart stopped beating. Although baby Claire passed away, doctors rushed to resuscitate her heart, hoping to use it to save another child’s life.
A heart that has stopped beating and needs to be resuscitated is considered to be “high-risk” for heart transplants. 17 families turned down Claire’s tiny Iowa heart before it finally made its way to Landen Bowers — just a day before he was supposed to go home.
“It ended up being the most absolute perfect heart for him,” said Tammy.
When the heart first arrived, Claire’s family sent along a gift for Landen.
“The gift was a stuffed lamb that had been in her bed,” said Tammy. “It matched Landen’s lion perfectly. We have pictures of her holding that lamb. It was just such beautiful symbolism.”
A Lion’s Heart
The word “hero” gets thrown around a lot within the startup community, but it’s a title that’s rarely earned. Tammy is a hero. She’s earned that title. Like Landen, she’s a lion. A fierce, determined, unstoppable lion.
“If you could just bottle up the passion Tammy has and transfer it to other entrepreneurs, it’s amazing how many other startups would be successful,” said JW Capital’s Ryan Westwood in an interview with Beehive Startups.
“If one of these fledgling startups had just a quarter of the passion she has for her business, there’s no doubt they’d be successful, or at least much more successful than they are. That’s really why we invested in Tammy.”
Before Landen was born, Tammy went to college and earned a degree in early childhood development. Starting a company was never part of the plan.
“This was not a goal at all,” said Tammy. “I wasn’t ever expecting to do this, but I feel like this is what I should be doing.”
As soon as her life began to revolve around regular hospital visits and consultations, Tammy was thinking of ways she could help empower caregivers like herself.
“A huge part of the medical industry is placed on the caregivers,” said Tammy. “Everything that doctors rely upon is what we give them.”
LionHeart was created by Tammy to provide the right tools and the right information to help caregivers take charge of their medical information, and to ensure doctors receive accurate information in order to make a proper diagnosis.
The Journey Continues
There have been some stumbles along the way, but with JW Capital’s infusion of cash, LionHeart is back to building its product, refining its vision, and looking toward the future.
“We’re planning an iOS release in March and an Android release sometime after that,” said Tammy.
You can find Landen at 1 Million Cups Provo most weeks; right next to his mom — full of energy, full of life. You wouldn’t know it from spending time with him, but Landen’s battle for survival continues to this day.
“Heart transplants don’t last forever,” said Tammy. “They say a new heart will only last anywhere from five to 15 years. Transplants are just the start. It’s a trade. You’re trading one disease for the other.
“Every day we have with our son is a borrowed day. Statistically we have a 50/50 chance of him celebrating his 10th birthday.”
LionHeart is more than just a startup to Tammy. It’s a rallying cry in a battle she refuses to lose.
“I am going to fight, and do everything I possibly can to have one more day with my son,” said Tammy. “To have a tool that can help with that is really important.”