Parents' Generosity Keeps Their Daughter's Memory Alive

By Maggie Callahan-Mabus
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In 2018, Melissa and Sam Steinberg were delighted to find out they were pregnant. At their 20-week anatomy scan, the Columbus, Ohio, couple were told that their daughter had a heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), and would need several open-heart surgeries for survival. The news was a shock, but armed with this knowledge, Melissa and Sam contacted experts in Ohio and asked for insights. After conversations with doctors and their own research, the Steinbergs decided to seek out Michigan Medicine.      

Michigan Medicine’s approach to HLHS is different from other hospitals; HLHS requires a number of surgeries, and Michigan Medicine begins with the largest surgery and later intervenes with less invasive surgeries. The Steinbergs were guided through the possibilities and felt that C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital was the right fit for them. Complications arose when Melissa went into labor five weeks early. Their daughter, Cameron Morgan Steinberg, was born on September 24, 2018, in Ohio. Because of the unexpected timing of her birth, her parents were not in Ann Arbor yet, so the team of Michigan Medicine physicians they consulted with drove to Columbus to see if Cami was healthy enough to be transported. Within the day, Michigan Medicine experts rode with Cami in an ambulance to Ann Arbor. Melissa — just hours after giving birth — checked out of the hospital and she and Sam drove to be with their daughter at Mott.

Cami SteinbergIn the two months that followed, the teams of nurses and doctors within Mott Children’s Hospital became a second family to Melissa and Sam. Melissa never left the room Cami was in, but Sam would occasionally catch a few restless hours of sleep in the Ronald McDonald wing of the NICU ward. The Steinbergs were relieved that the staff allowed them to stay nearby instead of relocating to a hotel across the street. Over the 9 weeks of Cami’s short life, more than 20 nurses and dozens of doctors provided incredible care for her. But in the end, Cami was just too small to survive the heart defect and the necessary surgeries. She died on November 23, 2018, and her heartbroken parents decided to do what they could to give back to the people who had taken such wonderful care of their family during their time of need.

The Cameron Morgan Steinberg Research Fund honors Cami’s memory by providing much-needed items for the smallest, most vulnerable patients and their loving families. Melissa and Sam created the fund to give their families an opportunity to remember Cami. Within a short time, they were able to provide direct, expendable funding for researchers. They purchased hundreds of “lovies,” or comforting stuffed animals, for patients in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. They also worked with the author of “Zipline,” a children’s book that celebrates cardiac heart surgery scars, and they donated specialized versions of the text to future families dealing with HLHS and other heart diseases. The Steinbergs are now working on establishing other celebrations of Cami’s life.