Car parade offers well wishes before surgery

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Caiden Obermeier, 10, along with his mother, Jennifer; father, Lee; and brother, Colton, 13, wave to Kamden McKeough, 15, of Holland, dressed as the Southridge Raider mascot, during a well-wishes drive-by parade for Caiden outside his home in Holland on Monday. The parade was organized as a surprise for Caiden, who is undergoing a medical procedure today.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

HOLLAND — Caiden Obermeier of Holland could not believe the line of cars filled with people cheering his name and holding signs that said, “We [heart] you Caiden.”

“It was mind-blowing,” the 10-year-old said.

Erin Meyer, a family friend of the Obermeiers, organized the surprise procession to boost Caiden’s spirits ahead of a heart surgery the Holland Elementary fourth-grader is having this morning at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

Caiden was born with a congenital heart defect and had open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old. Caiden and his family — parents, Lee and Jennifer; brother, Colton, 13; and sister, Claire, 5 — know he’ll need another open heart surgery down the road. Today, though, the surgery will be a nearly six-hour electrophysiology study and catheter ablation, during which Caiden will be under general anesthesia.

“He’s very nervous,” Jennifer said. “He’s a worrier by nature.”

Meyer knows Caiden is a worrier. But she also knows he’s one of the kindest kids she’s ever met who doesn’t know a stranger and is quick to greet anyone with a smile.

Lauren Obermeier of Jasper, right, peeks out of the sunroof holding a sign during a well-wishes drive-by parade for her cousin, Caiden Obermeier, 10, outside Caiden’s home in Holland on Monday.

“Caiden is one of those kids who is the sweetest, most charismatic with a smile that lights up the room,” Meyer said.

She and the other residents of Holland hoped to bring that smile to Caiden’s face as they drove past his home, flying balloons out their car windows and honking their horns in a celebration of their young friend that followed social distancing. There was a large crowd, which didn’t surprise Meyer one bit.

“Kids and adults, he’s got a lot of friends,” she said.

The parade worked. After the procession ended and the cars drove away, Caiden said he felt a little less nervous about the coming surgery, which came unexpectedly. For the last few weeks, Caiden has been having some chest pain, Jennifer said. Doctors hope tomorrow’s operations will reveal why.

The parade isn’t the only way Caiden’s friends are showing him some love before the surgery. Jennifer said he’s received a handful of cards and letters in the mail from his friends, and a group at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Huntingburg plans to gather tomorrow during the surgery to pray the rosary. To Caiden, the outpouring of support is unexpected, but to Jennifer, it’s the result of her son’s kind heart.

“He acts surprised about how much people care,” she said. “But he would be the first one to send something to a friend or put something on their porch.”

Jennifer Obermeier of Holland, left, her son, Caiden, 10, and daughter, Claire, 5, watch a drive-by parade of well-wishers for Caiden outside their home in Holland on Monday.



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