“We miss you, Jeremy!” exclaimed the kindergarten class at Hancock Elementary School in Lemay, as they celebrated a virtual birthday with their classmate, Jeremy Courtois. Thanks to videoconferencing technology, Jeremy shared his sixth birthday with friends and teachers through a live television screen on Nov. 14.
Jeremy is recovering at home after his fourth open-heart surgery, performed on Oct. 29 by cardiothoracic surgeon Andrew Fiore, M.D., at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
The class enjoyed cookie cake and ice cream at their desks, while Jeremy ate his birthday treats at home.
"He has the same ice cream we do," said one of the students, intrigued by the technology. "How did they mail it to him?"
Jeremy's videoconference birthday party was made possible by the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis, a local nonprofit educational agency that provides technology and equipment to schools in need.
“We are all just so excited about being able to do this for Jeremy,” said Katie Wilber, Jeremy’s teacher. “My students write in their journals about him every day. They ask about him all the time.”
Jeremy is showing signs of full recovery and is expected to return to school in early December. His classmates are eager to see him again.
“How are you feeling Jeremy?” the class asked in unison.
“Better. My heart’s fixed,” said Jeremy with a smile.
The Caring School Community program also helped connect Jeremy with his classmates. CSC is a nationally recognized elementary school program that focuses on building a classroom and student community.
“This program makes everyone feel involved at school,” said Assistant Principal Mike Dittrich. “Today we want Jeremy to know that he is part of this class.”
“He’s my best friend,” said Meho Zukic, 5. “When he comes back, I’m going to hug him!”