It’s not often a child will capture your heart within moments of meeting her. But it’s also not often that child, who needs a heart herself, has the charm and delight of 7-year-old Ireland Larson.
“I love cheese curds. Maybe I could work at the State Fair, and every year I could get a boatload of cheese curds for the next one,” Ireland said from her hospital room on a recent spring day.
The St. Louis Park native can go from jokes to songs to puppet shows as quickly as the most skilled and famous entertainer.
“Polly the Puppet wants a cracker!” she said one moment, before shifting to playing her “air guitar.”
“What do you call a lamb that does karate?” she then asks. “Lamb chops,” she responds with perfect comedic timing.
But as infectious as Ireland’s joy may be, you have only to look at her arm wrapped in wires to know this is a girl that knows both laughter and tears. In fact, KARE 11 interviewed her from her room at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“[We] realized within probably the first 12 hours that she had a very small right ventricle of her heart, so a quarter of her heart was underdeveloped,” said Ireland’s mother, Kathleen Larson, from her daughter’s bedside.
The condition is called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome. By the time Ireland was 9 months old, doctors had performed two open heart surgeries on her. She had another one when she was 4 years old. She’s had several other major surgeries and ongoing complications and has lived more than two years of her young life in the hospital. And today, with complications causing fluid to build up on her lungs, she’s waiting for the biggest surgery yet: a heart transplant.
Hope is something that resonates with Ireland.
“I’ll be a normal kid,” she said when contemplating life after the transplant.
And where there’s hope, for Ireland, there’s also a dream.
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a world famous singer,” she said.
And that is where Ireland’s story dovetails with one we’ve heard before.
In the fall of 2012, music producer and owner of Atomic K Records and Productions Karl Demer stumbled onto a life-changing event: he met Zach Sobiech.
“Amazing things happen when they’re done for the right reasons,” Karl said from his Minneapolis studio.
Karl produced Zach’s signature song “Clouds,” which the teen had written about his battle with osteosarcoma. And then Karl continued working with Zach to produce more of his music before his death in May of 2013.
“Sometimes God will kind of nudge you in one direction or the other and sometimes, like with Zach, and in this instance, he kind of picks you up by the ear, and drags you across the room,” Karl said.