Avera Medical Minute: Heartbeat Recording Program creates meaningful gifts from the heart

Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 10:39 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things a family can endure.

A new service at Avera Health is giving those family members a lasting piece of their loved one, through a heartbeat recording program.

The sound of her father’s heartbeat will always be a special thing for Reagan Olivier to hear.

“I believe that my dad is always with me and I feel like he’s always with me but to have that it’s just really special and makes me feel extra close when I listen to it,” she said.

Reagan and her dad, Jerry, have some special memories together.

When he passed last November after a battle with ALS, it was hard on the entire family.

“We miss him terribly and we will for a very long time,” said Jerry’s wife, Krista. “But with ALS and seeing how he struggled and knowing immediately with our faith that he was in heaven, it brings us all a little more peace and comfort. And I honestly feel that he’s always with me.”

Krista says her late husband was always an intentional gift-giver.

His final gift to his family is one that can’t be topped.

Through the help of a board-certified Avera music therapist, Jerry was able to leave his family a gift from the heart.

“The purpose of taking the heartbeat, it’s a rhythm,” said Board Certified Music Therapist Rebecca Jennings-Boyer. “We all have a rhythm in us and that’s a heartbeat and it’s a connection to someone and when you hear it, it’s kind of like saying, ‘I love you.”

Jennings-Boyer worked with Jerry while he was in hospice.

Together, the two of them used a recording of Jerry’s heartbeat and placed it into music.

“If you would have asked me if Jerry would have done this a while ago, I would have said no, but I am so glad he did,” said Krista Olivier.

Jerry’s knack for intentional gifting carried through in the songs he chose for his wife, and kids.

“So for me, it was a song from 25, 30 years ago, when I used to love dancing, and it was ABBA’S “Dancing Queen.” And to think that he still thinks of that song with me when I’m 51 years old is somewhat comical to me, but sweet all the same,” said Krista.

For his son Ian, a big fan of Christmas music, jerry chose “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

“Anytime you hear it now, it has a little extra meaning,” said Ian. “But at least it doesn’t make you too sad in the moment, you just really appreciate it. It’s just a reminder every time you hear it.”

For Reagan, who once received Taylor Swift concert tickets from her father as a birthday gift, she received the Taylor Swift song “The Best Day” with a personalized touch.

“We added a message to it,” said Jennings-Boyer. “And that was probably one of the toughest days for me was to sit and help him through that message.”

“I was really proud of my dad for doing it, and I thought it was really sweet of him to do that, and very meaningful,” said Reagan. “I was very emotional listening to it, especially with having his heartbeat and listening to his voice recording that’s in the middle of it, it was a really emotional moment.”

Reagan already has future plans for her gifted song.

“I’m supposed to, if I chose to get married, dance to that with my brother Ian, on my wedding day.”

The Avera Foundation provided the funding for the Heartbeat Recording Program. For more information, head over to Avera.org/MedicalMinute.