September 24, 2014 7:00 pm • By SCOTT KOPERSKI / Beatrice Daily
Beatrice mother’s grief assuaged by aiding Texas child
His heart failing and his slim chances of receiving a transplant growing even slimmer, all Ethan Osterman’s family could do was hope. Read more
BEATRICE — The drive took 10 hours but went by in a flash for Danielle Lottman of Beatrice.
Her meeting in Dallas wasn’t supposed to occur until the next morning, but the other family, the Ostermans, insisted on meeting that night for dinner.
So on a Friday night, the strangers met at Bread Winners Café.
Danielle was nervous. She didn’t know what to expect, how it would feel.
Following the family on Facebook for the last year didn’t make spotting them any easier, and it took some searching to make the connection, even in the nearly empty restaurant.
And then, there they were.
Jake Osterman, a Dallas banker; Lauren Osterman, a stay-at-home mom; and Jake’s mom, who flew in from Georgia just for this meeting.
But most of all, there was Ethan. Blue-eyed, blond-haired Ethan.
Danielle’s eyes immediately went to the 2-year-old with whom she’s forever connected. Her son’s heart saved his life.
“We all sat down and kind of just made small talk,” Danielle Lottman recalled. “I just felt right at home an hour later. Ethan warmed up to us really well. He was playing with us and climbing up on my lap.”
Easton Lottman’s story captured the hearts of many after his family found him unresponsive following a nap in April 2013.
As Easton’s life began to fade, another boy 800 miles away was also in trouble.
Ethan Osterman was born with an undeveloped left side of his heart, and two corrective surgeries had not remedied the situation.
Chances of finding a new heart were considered bleak.
“We had basically said goodbye,” Lauren Osterman recalled of her only child. “Family was starting to come in from out of town to support us and to deal with what comes along with that. No matter how hard things get, there’s still a little spark in the back of your mind that’s hopeful. I can’t believe our little spark, something became of that.”
Today, Ethan is a normal, active little boy.
Lauren said they had been open to meeting the donor family for some time, but didn’t want to pressure Danielle into a meeting.
Despite recommendations that donor and recipient families wait a year before seeking each other out, the Lottmans and Ostermans were aware of each other days after the transplant, thanks to Facebook. They made contact shortly later.
Lauren wrote the Lottmans a letter last August, expressing the family’s gratitude for deciding to donate Easton’s organs.
“For us, it was just to look someone in the eye and thank them, even though thank you isn’t even the right word,” she said. “I think these little guys’ stories have changed a lot of perspectives, or at least opened their eyes.”
Danielle decided enough time had passed, and set out Sept. 5 for Texas, along with her brother, Jesse Rodriguez, and Easton’s great-grandmother, Kim Hinkle.
Much like Danielle, the Ostermans weren’t sure what to expect from the meeting, but it didn’t take long for a connection to develop.
“It was really special and almost picturesque,” Lauren recalled. “The sky was beautiful. It was like there was a greater power making it all just perfect.”
To commemorate the occasion, Danielle brought Ethan a toy, a toy she’d purchased a year earlier for Easton, but never had the chance to give him.
“A couple weeks before Easton had gotten sick, we went to Target and he found this Toy Story toy of these little figurines that he just had to have,” Danielle said. “He actually got down on the ground, sat there and just stared at it.
“When he was in the hospital, I went and got it for him, but he never made it to play with that toy, so we gave it to Ethan. His first reaction when we walked up to them at the restaurant with it was just, ‘Wow!’”
Additional tidbits were shared as the families got to know each other. For example, Danielle wasn’t previously aware that Ethan’s doctor had flown to Nebraska and was involved with the surgery to remove Easton’s heart.
“I didn’t want to give up hope that my son was going to come out of there alive,” Danielle said. “As the days progressed, we knew in the back of our minds he wasn’t going to make it, and they asked me about donating. I just said it bluntly, ‘Yeah, why not?’”
And, yes, the connection is strong. Ethan even allowed Danielle to listen to his heart through a stethoscope, which typically raises a fuss.
“He doesn’t take to strangers well, but he did to them,” Lauren said.
The two mothers shared an experience neither will soon forget, and both agreed their opinion of organ donating was forever changed.
“I’ve never had to really think about it until it was staring me in my face with sad, ‘help me’ eyes,” Lauren said. “Then I was just convinced. Why would anyone not donate organs? To me, it’s a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you?”