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Mom writes books for son, other children in hospital

Posted at 5:22 PM, May 31, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — After writing a book dedicated to her son with a heart defect, one local author is sharing her love of books with other families in need.

Carli Valentine is a "Heart Mom" who wrote and illustrated the book “Extra Special Heart” for her 9-year-old son, Finn, who was born with a heart defect.

“It’s to empower kids with heart defects, and I dedicated it to him and then all the other heart warriors that are going through similar stories,” said Valentine.

The book, along with others she has written, are to help other kids with special needs feel seen. Even though her writing started for her son, Carli’s mission has grown along the way.

“If I’m writing it for me, maybe it would be special to other families that are going through the same kind of struggles,” she said.

In his life, Finn has undergone two open heart surgeries. To celebrate the 18-month mark since his last surgery, Carli organized a book drive to pay forward the love the family received when they were in the hospital.

“It’s a really neat experience and we were just really overwhelmed with gratitude for all those authors who have donated,” said Carli.

Books mean so much to families with kids in the hospital, like baby Paisley, who also has a heart defect, and her mom, Stephanie Sorensen, a single mom of three girls.

Paisley’s first open heart surgery came when she was 3 days old.

“It struck me, I was like, I don’t know if she’s going to come out, it’s a pretty intense surgery,” explained Stephanie. “She’s pretty young and fragile, and the nurse overheard me talking about not being able to read her a book, and the nurse rushed in with a book so that we could have that opportunity and that memory has really made a difference for me.”

Valentine has collected about 3,000 books to give to hospitals and nonprofit organizations to share with families that could use a little extra hope, like Nicura Thompson, whose son, Emmett, has Tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of congenital heart defects.

“One of the first things he actually learned to do was turn pages in a book, before he was even able to sit up, which was really, really sweet,” Thompson said.

The family says they books they've received have been powerful.

“It’s just a book to so many other people, they’re like, 'Ohm we got shelves of them.' But kids in the hospital don’t. So even just one book goes a really long way,” said Nicura.

CLICK HERE to help children receive books while in the hospital.