Bridget Sova uses a specialized stethoscope recorder to capture the thumping, rhythmic heartbeats of young patients then blends them with a recording of her playing guitar or singing a tune of the family’s choosing. Sova, 24, says it’s a way to ensure the heartbeats live on, regardless of what happens to the child.
Sova says she has made 60 to 70 heartbeat recordings during her year at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. She has paired heartbeats with everything from traditional lullabies to songs by pop stars Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. One family even requested the theme song from the classic boxing film “Rocky.”
“I don’t change the heartbeat. I change the song to fit the heartbeat,” Sova said. “And so that way the song is unique to them and to their son or daughter, brother or sister.”
Kim Betser says she often listens to Sova’s mash-up of her infant daughter Adalyn’s heartbeat and an acoustic guitar rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”
“Probably daily,” the 36-year-old X-ray technician from nearby Rockford, Michigan, said while laughing. “I do. It’s on my cellphone. I’ve been showing friends and family, and they just are blown away.”
Betser says the recording is a reminder that little Adalyn, who was born 8 weeks premature and with Down syndrome and heart defects, is still around.
“It just brings joy. It makes me happy to hear that heartbeat and know that she’s strong and healthy and here, and we’ve made it through some rough patches early on in her life,” Betser said of the 9-month-old, who spent 67 days in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Sova brought the technique with her from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she worked as an intern. She has taught a number of the DeVos hospital’s Child Life specialists how to construct the recording device — by combining a stethoscope with a lapel microphone — and how to record the heartbeats and remove extraneous noise using an app.
“It’s such an amazing technique and intervention that we really want to share this with everyone,” Sova said in her office, shortly after recording her latest set of heartbeats.
Sova’s stethoscope recorder picked up the heartbeat tones of each member of the Jackson family of Grand Rapids — father Julius, mother Widline and infant daughter Mistha, who was born with a rare and life-threatening autoimmune condition and needs a bone marrow transplant.
Sova brought together the trio of heartbeat sounds with the strains of one of Widline Jackson’s favorite tunes from her Haitian homeland to produce Mistha’s special song.
“We’re excited to have it for Mistha, because she loves music,” Widline Jackson said.
In addition to the music-added version, Sova gives each family a copy of their child’s solo heartbeat recording.
“It’s very meaningful just to have that heartbeat just plain, so that they can listen to it — listen to that essence of life,” she said.