‘Feel the Beat’ Is About Hope, Healing and Camaraderie, and It’s Easy to Dance To

Naomi Babcock took center stage at an event created to thank patients and their families for their contributions to HLHS research, showing others what someone living with the rare condition is capable of achieving.

Kids with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS, "often don’t meet other people like themselves," according to Brianna Tranby. That's one reason the annual — and cleverly named — "Feel the Beat" event is something of a homecoming for HLHS patients and their families, the HLHS research coordinator tells us. "We had 142 attendees this year," she says. "Many had attended the event previously, but some were first-timers who had never met someone else with HLHS."

The event was created in 2013 as a way to “bring HLHS families together and thank research participants for their contributions” to ongoing HLHS research, Tranby says. This year, one of those research participants took center stage, literally and figuratively. Naomi Babcock's story shows how much someone living with HLHS is capable of achieving despite the physical and emotional tolls of the rare condition.

"Naomi is an 18-year-old high school senior with HLHS who's in full-time training to be a professional ballerina," Tranby tells us. During a panel discussion at the event, Naomi and her mom, Kelly, talked about Naomi's experiences "growing up with HLHS, the physical demands ballet has had on her body, and what it's been like for her to leave home and take care of herself while also managing her condition."

Then Naomi showed her fellow patients just what was possible, performing a ballet routine for those attending the event. “I think it was important for other people with HLHS to see that so they know HLHS is something you can actually live with," Tranby says. "You can live to adulthood and still do physical activities. That’s something that’s really important to our HLHS program at Mayo Clinic and is what inspires the groundbreaking research we're doing.”

That research is something Tranby tells us Mayo Clinic cannot do on its own. "The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS was started at Mayo Clinic in 2010," she says. "Because the condition is so rare, no single hospital sees many HLHS patients, which makes research challenging." So in 2017, Mayo Clinic created a nationwide HLHS Consortium to align centers of excellence and collaborate in clinical trial research. The consortium includes both hospitals and patient/family advocacy groups with the shared goal of improving the lives of people with HLHS through research.

People like Naomi Babcock and 140-some friends who attended this year's "Feel the Beat" event.

For more about Naomi and this year's "Feel the Beat" event, check out the stories here and here. For more about Mayo Clinic’s HLHS program, check out the program’s blog and social media accounts. Then be sure to check us out and leave a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.