When a child is sick and at the hospital, sometimes, even a small gift will make them feel better.

It was with that mind set that Villa Ridge couple Kristin and Steven Straatmann, with children Coltyn and Kendyl, started “Coltyn’s Pajama Party” to benefit children who stay at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Because of a liver disease, Coltyn spent about six weeks of the first two years of his life at Children’s Hospital, including when he was 10 days old and again to undergo surgery before he was 2 months old.

Coltyn has been diagnosed with biliary atresia, a progressive liver disease in which tubes in the liver, called bile ducts, don’t allow bile to drain into the intestines and kidneys for excretion.

Coltyn had surgery to create a bioduct for the bile to go from his liver directly to his small intestine.

Most infants who are diagnosed need a transplant before their second birthday, Kristin Straatmann said. Of those who don’t need a transplant by age 2, the remainder typically need a transplant before they are 5. There is no known cause for the disease and it is fatal if left untreated.

And though he likely will need a transplant, he can’t be added to the list until his first surgery fails or his liver starts to fail, because his Pediatric End Stage Liver Disease (PELD) score wouldn’t rank him high enough to receive a liver, Straatmann explained.

Each time Coltyn is at the hospital, he “always comes home with something,” she said, adding that he’s been given toys, a teddy bear, a homemade blanket, books and other items.

“We knew we wanted to do something to give back to the hospital, we just hadn’t thought of what,” she said.

The pajama idea came from another “liver mom” from a group on Facebook Straatmann belongs to.

After getting the OK from the hospital to collect pajamas, the Straatmanns sent out a request to more than 30 pairs of aunts and uncles (Coltyn’s great-aunts and -uncles) in a yearly newsletter on Coltyn’s health.

She also enlisted help on Facebook.

Her aunt, who works for the Francis Howell School District, collected nearly 90 pajamas at the preschool. Soon, others started donating pajamas or sending checks to purchase pajamas.

So far, the Straatmanns have collected about 270 pairs of pajamas. The pajamas will be donated to any child at the hospital, not just those with liver problems.

“I just hope (the pajamas) brighten their stay and put a smile on the kids’ faces,” Straatmann said.

Some children will be unable to wear the pajamas during their stay, she said, but can take them home.

Well past their original goal of collecting 50 to 100 pairs of pajamas, the family now hope to collect 300 pairs.

The hospital’s Child Life department will be responsible for distributing the pajamas.

To Donate

The family will collect new pajamas with tags still attached for children ages birth to 18 years old through the end of October.

A collection box is located at the Union ambulance.

Monetary donations also will be accepted for the purchase of pajamas.

For more information, people may call Kristin Straatmann at 636-667-2831.