Like many fathers, Michael Linn had great dreams for his son, Matthew, when he was born in 1982. Sadly, Matthew was born with a congenital heart defect—his tiny heart had two chambers instead of four.
When Matthew was 7 years old, doctors in Boston performed the Fontan procedure, an open-heart surgery where a third chamber is created. Matthew survived the surgery but passed away in recovery.
Nineteen years later in 2008, Linn created a fund at Texas Children's Hospital through his estate plans to ensure that the dreams of other parents for their children with congenital heart defects have a chance to come true. He made an initial commitment of $1 million to establish the Matthew Linn Endowed Fund for Congenital Heart Surgery Research and has made an additional commitment that has a current value of approximately $4 million. He has also joined Texas Children's Board of Trustees, given several other generous gifts to the hospital and is actively involved in helping raise other support for hospital programs.
According to Charles D. Fraser Jr., M.D., surgeon-in-chief, chief of congenital heart surgery and Donovan Chair in Congenital Heart Surgery at Texas Children's, Linn's donation will provide valuable resources for the congenital heart surgery service and the Center for Cardiac Valve Disease at Texas Children's Hospital.
"Advancing this research could someday benefit other children born with congenital defects similar to Matthew's," Fraser says. "Mike's incredible generosity is laying the groundwork for much-needed advances for pediatric patients with congenital heart diseases."
Fraser, who is also Susan V. Clayton Chair in Surgery and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, relates that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Fontan surgery that Matthew Linn had was a much more risky proposition. "Because of research and surgical advancements, today the survival rate is more than 99 percent among our patients who have the Fontan surgery," he says. Fraser and his team, in collaboration with Rice University, are also working to develop living, growing tissue engineered pediatric heart valve replacements that will grow with children and do not require anticoagulants.
Linn had been part of the Houston community for only two years when he initially established the fund. "I had moved my business, Linn Energy, to Houston because it certainly was the environment we needed to be in, and the relocation introduced me to Texas Children's Hospital," he explains. "Once I met Dr. Fraser and learned of his vision for congenital heart surgery research, I knew I had found a way to honor Matthew."
He adds, "This donation was just a first step for me in my relationship with my new hometown's premier pediatric hospital. I enjoy helping Texas Children's with my funding and my time and look forward to doing so for many years to come."