“Baby Tressel Day” on Wednesday, February 15 at the Community Blood Center (CBC) Richmond branch will mark nearly 18 months since little Tressel Meinardi died from a tragic mistake during heart surgery. Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton will proclaim the blood drive as “A Day of Caring” to symbolize new hope for the Meinardi family and all those who benefit from the gift of life.
“Emilie and her husband Scott are amazing young people,” said Mayor Hutton. “When they were going through this they were comforting everyone else. That’s the kind of people they are.”
Baby Tressel was born with a heart condition and was seven months old when he underwent surgery on Aug. 16, 2010 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The surgery went as planned until, as the Meinardis eventually learned, a final step proved fatal. An operating room technician mistakenly flushed the baby’s heart with alcohol instead of a saline solution and Tressel died five days later.
A tremendous outpouring of community compassion and support followed, including 1,500 children’s books donated at his funeral for Cincinnati Children’s. A book drive on last year’s Day of Caring in Richmond, held on what would have been Tressel’s first birthday, generated 2,000 books for all Wayne County K through second graders.
“He touched a lot of people’s hearts for him having such a small heart,” Emilie Meinardi says of her son. The Meinardis talked with CBC Richmond Branch Rep. Melinda Frech about holding the “Baby Tressel Day” blood drive on his birthday this year, but an unexpected blessing forced a change of plans. Emily gave birth to a daughter on July 16, 2011. True to Ohio State, they named her “Scarlet” for the scarlet and gray.
Like Tressel, Scarlet was also born three months premature and needed special care. Emilie felt grateful to provide it, especially as the anniversary of Tressel’s death arrived. “When a year came up,” she says, her voice breaking, “we had a baby to hold again.” They had planned to visit Tressel’s grave in Findlay, but instead spent the anniversary with Scarlet in the hospital.
Scarlet shares another bond with her brother. She too was born with a heart condition, a small hole in the ventricular wall of her heart. Scarlett’s doctors are the same as Tressel’s, and if necessary, heart surgery would be performed at Cincinnati Children’s. Tressel’s death did not shake Emilie’s trust. “It was a horrible mistake but everybody makes mistakes every day,” she said. “It’s the same doctors and everything and they are just as compassionate as before.”
But Emilie got exciting news during Scarlet’s check-up one week before Baby Tressel Day. Scarlet will not need surgery, and though her condition will be monitored, she doesn’t have to go back to the hospital for a year.
“He taught us a lot about patience,” Emilie says of caring for Scarlet and her hopes to have more children. She points out that Feb. 15 is a perfect day for Baby Tressel’s Day of Caring at CBC because that was the day he came home from the hospital after his premature birth.
“It’s a way of giving back to people,” says Mayor Hutton, “especially people who need critical care at a moment in life. But it’s not just that. It’s a day of caring, to simply help others with an act of kindness, in memory of Tressel, something we sometimes overlook in our lives.”