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For Immediate Release:
March 13, 2015
Media Contact:
Lidia Amoretti



Michael Gardner, patient; Debbie and Keith Gardner, parents; Michael’s medical team at Holtz Children’s Hospital; Corey and Edda Bergman, founders of the Ukulele Kids Club


Michael Gardner, 14, has found passion and peace in playing his ukulele while he waits for a second lifesaving multivisceral transplant in the pediatric intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. The boy, who also suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, takes daily music therapy lessons, which have helped him become more expressive and open with therapists. He often sings and plays for his parents and medical team.

“Music therapy reaches him where medicine can’t,” said Keith Gardner, Michael’s father. “It touches his soul. It keeps him entertained and it transports him to a peaceful place.”

Michael was born with gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines develop outside of the abdominal wall. Doctors performed surgery immediately after birth, and he managed to live well for many years. In 2012, Michael began to have complications and was in need of new intestines, a pancreas and a liver. After a two-year wait on the transplant list, Michael learned a match had been found. His transplant surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital was in November 2014.

“Michael is a very sensitive kid,” said Keith. “The day we got the call he got very emotional and cried thinking about his donor and their family.”
But just two months after the operation, Michael’s body began rejecting the new organs. Doctors determined he needed a second transplant surgery – another new liver, pancreas and intestines, as well as an abdominal wall.

“Michael was only supposed to live up to age 2,” said Debbie Gardner, Michael’s mother. “He will soon turn 15, and he’s still with us. He’s truly a miracle.”
The Gardners, who have fostered 50 children in the past 17 years, began caring for Michael when he was discharged from the hospital at 13 months old. They legally adopted him when he was 3.

“Michael is a super kid,” said Keith. “He’s funny, bright. He is very creative and has great potential at playing the ukulele.”

A music therapy program recently began at Holtz Children’s – and its popularity has caught on quickly with patients. Ukulele Kids Club Inc., a non-profit organization that has donated hundreds of ukuleles to patients in children’s hospitals nationwide, has partnered with Holtz Children’s. Michael was given one of the ukuleles and has spent much of his time in the hospital learning how to play it.

Michael’s medical team was determined to make his wish of playing ukulele in a concert come true, so they planned an outdoor concert Friday at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His family, medical team and other patients will cheer him on as he performs.

When: March 13, 2015, 3:00 p.m.

Jackson Memorial Hospital
Alamo Park
1611 N.W. 12th  Avenue
Miami, FL 33136

Editor's Note:

Media can park for free in Park Plaza West garage (green garage). Live trucks can be accommodated outside of the Alamo building.

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Jackson Health System
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136