'Riley's Heart Machine' Inspired by Child's Need for Pacemaker

Book raises awareness, money for Children's Heart Foundation.

Lori M. Jones found out her daughter had a major heart issue when she was 24 weeks pregnant. 

Besides her own fears, she worried about what her daughter Riley's fears would be.

"Riley's Heart Machine" is the artistic expression of those fears—a children's book written by Jones and illustrated by Julie Hammond.

The book tells the story of a little girl with a big secret that she is afraid to share because she thinks the other children might laugh at her. 

Instead, the children are fascinated and filled with questions about the oval bump in Riley's tummy that is a heart machine commonly known as a pacemaker.

Lori read the story to children at Riley's school, Wexford Elementary, as well as to elementary students in Mt. Lebanon.

"It's a great way to spark conversations about differences," said Lori. "They all wanted to tell me something they had done that was different." 

The book explains heart problems in clear, simple terms.

But it is about more than heart issues, the book is a vehicle to help any child with differences to embrace that difference, she said.

Lori wrote the book when Riley was 2 years old and sent it to Guardian Angel Publishing Inc., which is based in St. Louis, MO, she said.

She got a contract back in 2009, but the wheels of book publishing roll slowly and the book was not published until the end of this past summer.

Riley received her first pacemaker when she was 1 year old. This summer that pacemaker's battery died and she received a new and improved pacemaker.

"It was like going from a flip phone to an iPhone," her mother said, referring to the advances in technology.

Lori is donating part of the proceeds from book sales to the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation, which funds research to detect, prevent and end congenital heart defects.

She serves on the Board of Directors.

Castle Toys and Games in Wexford hosted an event Thursday night that promoted the book and awareness for The Children's Heart Foundation.

Lori M. Jones lives in Wexford with her husband Mark and daughters Sydney and Riley. She has written two novels, which have not yet been published. She studied communication and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnsontown.

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