About the Book

On April 20, 2013, the eight mothers who gave their stories for Healing Hearts met together for the very first time.  Understandably, it was an emotional meeting.  It was the club no one ever wants to join -- parents who have lost a child.  But these mothers had one more thing in common.  Dr. Hisashi Nikaidoh had known their children, had been with them at times of struggle, and -- as he says so eloquently in Healing Hearts -- their children are his children now. 

Back row, l. to r.:
Shanna Shields-Thomas, Liz Etzkorn, Dr. Nikaidoh, Julie Lackey Williams. 
Front row, l. to r.:
Karen Ellis, Linda Ojeda Balcioglu, Lynette Dick, Marie Crowe, and Linda Simpkins

Here's How It All Started:

One afternoon in the early 1990s, Hisashi Nikaidoh, MD saw a familiar face outside the cafeteria of The Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, where he worked as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.  He recognized Linda Ojeda, a woman who had lost her son at the hospital years before from a heartbreaking accident.  Although Dr. Nikaidoh had not been involved in his case professionally, he had seen Linda at her son's bedside every day as he checked on his own patients in the ICU.  He was surprised to see her at the hospital again after so many years and assumed she was there visiting someone.  They smiled and acknowledged each other, then went their separate ways. 

A few weeks later, Dr. Nikaidoh saw her in the hallway again. And then again. And again. Each time, they would smile and nod. Finally, one day, Linda stopped for a moment to talk. With her genuine smile and her open manner, she simply said, “Dr. Nikaidoh, I work here now.”

"Oh, wow,” he responded. “That’s very nice.”

That was all he was able to say right then, but so many chaotic thoughts ran around in his mind. Why would a mother come to work at the institution that had not been able to save her son’s life? Why would she choose to come to work every single day in the place where her baby died? Why would she put herself through that?

 Dr. Nikaidoh was deeply intrigued by the fact that Linda chose to work in a place that he imagined to be so suffused with pain for her. But he didn’t even think of asking her directly the many questions that were on his mind about such a delicate topic. But he did know one thing: If he had lost a child, he would want to go far, far away from the location of such a tragic loss.

And then, one day in 2003, the unthinkable happened. Dr. Nikaidoh’s son Hitoshi was killed in a tragic accident. As he labored through the pain of his grief in the months that followed, his encounters with Linda were constantly on his mind. What did she know about this terrible grief that he was suffering? Could she share something helpful she had learned—anything that could alleviate the unbearable pain?

Finally, one day he called and asked to meet with her.

"Why do you do this?” he asked. “Why do you work here in this building where your son died?”

With her peaceful smile, Linda answered very simply, “Because it helps me, Dr. Nikaidoh. It helps me to be here.”

And Healing Hearts was born.

What Dr. Nikaidoh eventually learned from Linda and the seven other women who so generously shared their stories with him is that it is possible to move beyond the excruciating pain of losing a child.  Although there is no end to the period of grieving, it is possible to share the joy and light of being alive again. And at least for these eight parents, it is possible to infuse their own lives with a deeper meaning by giving back to the very community that tried valiantly, though unsuccessfully, to save the lives of their precious children.



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