The Story of Super Ben Messer
In March 2014, at 21 weeks gestation, Keith and Tiffany Messer learned that one of their twins would be born with Heterotaxy Syndrome. Heterotaxy Syndrome is a rare birth defect that affects the heart and other organs. The beginning of the word “hetero” means different, and the end “taxy” means arrangement.
His little heart would have severe and complex defects, his stomach was on the incorrect side of his body, he had a transverse liver, and no spleen. How different this baby would be, but in more ways than just his body arrangement.
The Messers and their medical team continued to monitor both babies, and in June 2014, Lucas and Benjamin were born. Both babies were taken to the NICU. From there, Benjamin was transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and placed in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). At 12 days old, weighing in at a whopping four pounds, Benjamin had his first open heart surgery. This surgery was 10 hours long, and he spent another two hours in recovery before the family was able to see their sweet boy again. Two weeks later, he was rushed into emergency surgery and emerged with the nickname, “Super Ben.”
At 10 weeks old, Ben endured a third open heart surgery. This procedure helped his heart immensely, he recovered quickly, and looked the best his dad and mom had ever seen him.
After 110 days, Super Ben was finally discharged to go home for the very first time.
Unfortunately, at 7 months old, Ben needed another open heart surgery. At this point, the motto, “Ben Strong,” was created and placed on t-shirts. These shirts were purchased, loved, and proudly worn to support this little superhero.
Super Ben pulled through this surgery and did well for a couple of months. Then, he came down with an illness in April 2015 which destroyed his already compromised lungs. He was placed on the Heart and Lung Transplant Lists in June 2015. At that time, this type of transplant had never been performed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital before.
On July 21st, 2015, completely by surprise, the Messers’ hearts were broken when they had to kiss their precious boy one last time this side of Heaven.
In honor of Benjamin, the Ben Strong community dedicated a patient room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Benjamin’s name.
The family also hosts “Ben Strong Week” the week of Ben’s passing each year. Events during this week include a Random Acts of Kindness day, Read to a Child day, Thank a Healthcare Worker day, and a blood drive every year to continue Benjamin’s legacy.
Follow the Messer family’s journey at: www.benstrong.org or on Facebook: The Many Adventures of Ben Strong