Monday, January 2, 2012

Music for Life

The motivation behind the debut album of Matt Hammitt is gut wrenching to say the least. The lead singer of the well known Christian band Sanctus Real decided to pursue his first solo effort after receiving some terrible news about his unborn son. He and his wife were devastated to learn that their baby boy had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. In layman's terms, he would be born with only half his heart. His chance of survival, even with multiple surgeries, was negligible. Hammitt turned to music as a vehicle for the overwhelming emotions he and his wife were coping with. The baby, Bowen Matthew Hammitt, was born on Sept. 9, 2010. Within a week, he would undergo open heart surgery, suffer cardiac arrest, be resuscitated, and finally be hooked to life support. As the weeks past, he would also endure a stroke.

What began for Matt as a means of working through his emotions became something more. According to an AP story, while Bowen was still confined to the hospital in his early days,

the couple played demos of the songs Hammitt had written "so Bowen could hear his dad's voice," his wife said. Night-shift nurses often turned up the music when most families would leave for the evening.

"They felt it was good for all the babies to be soothed," Sarah said. "We'd come back in the morning and it'd be really loud."

Hammitt recorded the songs for the album soon after the family brought Bowen home to suburban Toledo. His only unease was that they might be critiqued like any other work.

"Originally I just wanted them recorded for us at the hospital," he said. "I realized they're meant to comfort other people too."

So far, the response has been what he hoped for. They've even received notes from parents who've played the songs at their children's funerals.

Now, the Hammitts want to take their work a step further by starting the Whole Hearts Foundation, a source of financial, emotional and spiritual help for families with children suffering from congenital heart defects. They see the foundation becoming their life's work.

The now one year old Bowen has more trouble ahead. There are still more surgeries planned for next year, and, even in the best scenario, he will likely need an entirely new heart once he reaches adulthood. For those who are interested in keeping track of the Hammitt family as Bowen continues to struggle and grow, the family is keeping the world updated. The album, Every Falling Tear, was released in September.

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