Human Interest Dad Gets Tattoo of 4-Year-Old Daughter's Open-Heart Surgery Scar: 'He Wants to Be Special Like Me' Everly Backe, who was born with a congenital heart defect, was just 3 days old when she had her first open-heart surgery By Abigail Adams Abigail Adams Instagram Twitter Digital News Writer, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on February 11, 2022 02:25 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Courtesy Matt and Lauren Backe These parents found a very special way to honor their 4-year-old daughter. Everly "Evie" Backe, who was born with "a critical, complex congenital heart defect," was just 3 days old when she had her first open-heart surgery in August 2017, her mother Lauren Backe tells PEOPLE. By age 1, she had undergone two more, all at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. Among the biggest scars on her body is on her chest. Lauren says the family calls it her "zipper." Now, Evie has a "zipper buddy" in her father, Matt Backe, who recently got a tattoo on his chest of his daughter's scar. The Crystal Lake father told Good Morning America, "It really makes me happy that they look the same." And his daughter agrees. Courtesy Matt and Lauren Backe Lauren tells PEOPLE that their daughter reacted to the tattoo by saying, "My daddy got a tattoo like my zipper so that I don't feel alone...and he wants to be special like me." Lauren also got a special tattoo of her own: an EKG line with a heart in the middle on her forearm. The inking has Evie's first initial on one end and son Jack's on the other. Man Who Lost His Sight in an Acid Attack as a Child Now Makes Life More Accessible for the Blind Lauren tells PEOPLE she first learned about Evie's heart complications when she was about 33 weeks pregnant. Evie spent the first month of her life in a specialized pediatric cardiology unit and was placed on a feeding tube and an oxygen tank for several months after returning home, per GMA. When she was not in the hospital, Lauren said the family would travel 130 miles round-trip for her appointments. "She spent a lot of that first 13 months of her life in and out of the hospital," Lauren told GMA. "But we were grateful that they taught us so much that we could also be at home." Courtesy Matt and Lauren Backe Completely "out of the blue" last year, Lauren says her husband told her that he was interested in getting a tattoo in honor of their daughter. "He said that he didn't want her to feel alone," she recalls. Formerly Conjoined Twins Enjoying 'Normal' Life at Home After Separation Surgery: 'We're So Happy' After mentioning the idea in passing to their family, Lauren says her husband was presented with a gift certificate to a local tattoo parlor for Christmas. "He was so surprised!" she remarks. One day last month, Matt went in to make the appointment — and due to a COVID-19-related opening, he was able to get the tattoo on the spot. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. Evie was a big fan from the beginning, but that didn't stop her from playfully teasing her father about "copying her." "While she was thrilled that she had someone just like her, in true Evie fashion she started to tease him a bit. She's very much into a copying phase of copying things we and her brother say, so she told her dad that he was copying her," Lauren tells PEOPLE. After Matt and Lauren first shared their story in a Facebook post, they quickly began receiving touching messages. "We had no idea people would react as strongly or emotionally to it as they have," says Lauren. Courtesy Matt and Lauren Backe Lionel Richie Reflects on Adopting Daughter Nicole with First Wife Brenda Harvey: 'She Was a Godsend' In addition to several other surgeries throughout her lifetime, Evie will need heart surgery again soon to replace a conduit put in her heart during her third open-heart surgery at 11 months old. Lauren tells PEOPLE that her family is grateful for both "the surgeries that exist to help" her daughter and "how far heart research and technology has come." Lauren and Matt now work with other families that have children with congenital heart defects in various ways, from volunteering at CHD events to sitting on foundation boards. Their goal, Lauren said, is to make sure no one feels alone as they once did. "It's important to Matt and I to try to help other CHD families," says Lauren.