Heartland Lutheran coach planning Jan. 14 fundraiser for stillbirth research

January 23, 2017
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By Jeff Bahr


Everything was just fine for Mark and Christine Ommen on July 12. Christine was almost 33 weeks pregnant with their first child, a boy. There were no signs of trouble.Shooting For The Stars: Heartland Lutheran girls basketball coach Kathryn Langrehr works with her team in the school's gym. Langrehr is organizing a charity game on Jan. 14 to raise money for stillbirths and neonatal deaths. (Independent/Barrett Stinson) - Barrett Stinson

 Christine, though, went to the doctor when she started feeling less fetal movement. An emergency caesarean section was done. The baby had a small heartbeat, but doctors couldn’t get him to take a breath.

Matthew Christopher Ommen died due to distress caused by a knot in his umbilical cord at a St. Louis hospital on July 13.

His aunt, Kathryn Langrehr, is a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Heartland Lutheran High School in Grand Island. Since Matthew died, Langrehr has become very interested in the subject of stillborn deaths.

For the last three months, Langrehr has been planning a major event that will take place on Jan. 14 in conjunction with two basketball games at Heartland Lutheran. Funds raised that night will go toward the Star Legacy Foundation, which does research into stillborn deaths. The evening will also call attention to stillborn and neonatal deaths.

When the baby died, Langrehr was visiting the Ommens, planning a shower. The Ommens, who live in Webster Groves, Mo., had visited Grand Island on July 4.

Langrehr had felt the baby kick.

“It hit home. That’s for sure,” Langrehr said of the baby’s death.

Matthew Ommen weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 18 inches when he was born. He was fully developed for a child at 32 weeks, 4 days of pregnancy. His weight was heavier than a lot of babies born at full term, Mark Ommen said.

“There was nothing at all wrong with him except for his umbilical cord had gotten into a knot and cut off his lifeline,” Ommen said.

In the U.S. alone, more than 26,000 babies are stillborn each year. A stillbirth occurs in one of 160 pregnancies, which means it happens far more often than people are hit by lightning, Ommen said. In a given year, one in 12,000 people are struck by lightning.

Technically, Matthew was not a stillbirth because stillborn babies are dead at the time of delivery.

Mark Ommen has become a Star Legacy Foundation board member. Christine Ommen has started a blog about her experience that has attracted other grieving parents. She has readers in 53 countries.

To support the Jan. 14 event, people may buy a “Shooting for the Stars” T-shirt. Those shirts, priced at $20, will be available at the gym that night. The deadline to buy them is Jan. 5.

If you want a T-shirt mailed to you, the cost is $25.

People may also buy a star that night, which will be placed on the wall, for $5.

The two founders of the Star Legacy Foundation, who live in Eden Prairie, Minn., will be at the game. So will Mark Ommen’s parents, who live in Des Moines, Iowa.

Because of gifts from anonymous donors, money will be awarded to the Star Legacy Foundation for every free throw Heartland Lutheran players make that night.

The goal is to raise $1,500.

Langrehr, 26, knows nothing can be done to bring Matthew back. “He’s in heaven with his eternal father,” she said. But she’d like to prevent future deaths.

Langrehr, who is a life sciences teacher, values both life and science. If we can send men to the moon, she said, we should be able to save a life in a mommy’s tummy.

‘Shooting for the Stars’

What: fundraiser and event bringing awareness to stillborn deaths.

When: Jan. 14 as part of a high school basketball doubleheader with St. Edward. Girls game will start at 6 p.m., followed by boys game.

Where: Heartland Lutheran High School, 3900 W. Husker Highway.

Source: Grand Island Independent, 1-4-16

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