Kids With Heart

Kids With Heart is a program that recognizes young, local heart and stroke survivors who serve as ambassadors for the American Heart Association (AHA) and inspiration for us all. These stories encourage others to participate in Kids Heart Challenge and Hoops For Heart, thus helping the AHA build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Alaska Kids With Heart

Arizona Kids With Heart

CHD survivor Brody

Meet Brody

Before Brody was born, he was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, which meant he would be born with four things wrong with his heart. When he was six months old his cardiologist told his parents that it was time to repair his heart and that he would need surgery. On July 2, 2008, at only seven-months-old, Brody had his first open-heart surgery. His parents always tell him how strong he is and how special his heart is! Now he has a cool scar that reminds him every day how strong and brave he is. 

Currently, he is very healthy and hasn’t had any problems but he knows that in the future he will need more surgeries. It is very scary to him but he knows he will be brave. Now every year Brody’s school does the Kid Heart Challenge to help raise money for heart research and to help other kids like him! In the past five years that he’s participated, Brody has raised the most money out of his entire school! Brody is proud to be a Heart Warrior and wants other kids join his mission to help others!

Ezra McKinstry

Meet Ezra

Ezra was born with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a double inlet left ventricle, transposition of the great arteries, Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). During their 20-week ultrasound Ezra’s parents learned his heart had only three instead of four chambers, his right ventricle did not form. Fortunately, Ezra did not need open-heart surgery immediately after his birth due to extra holes his heart formed that benefited his heart at that time. Unfortunately, at just over two months old, he was in heart failure and required his first open-heart surgery. Only a few months later, when Ezra was 11 months old, he suffered a stroke caused by a blood clot that had formed in his heart. This stroke led to seizures. When he was 14-months-old he had his final heart surgery and thrombus removal. 

Ezra is now 6 years old and full of energy, love and happiness. He can run with his heart as long as it holds up. Currently there is no cure or complete fix for his special heart. Doctors have done all they can to "mend" his heart and in the future Ezra may need a heart transplant.
Jackson M

Meet Jackson

Jackson was born with holes in his heart. When Jackson was only 10 months old, he had to have open-heart surgery so that his heart wouldn’t have to work so hard to pump blood. Before his procedure, Jackson would get tired very quickly but just three days after his surgery, he was up and moving more than ever! Since his surgery Jackson and his family have worked hard to stay healthy. He has a special tube in his stomach so that his parents can make sure he eats lots of heart-healthy foods like carrots, broccoli and more! He takes swim classes and loves sports – golf and soccer are his favorites. He loves running races, hiking and playing at the park. Jackson and his family make sure they are kind and encouraging to everyone around them because they know how important it is to help each other out!
 
Arizona Michael 1

Meet Michael

When Michael was 6 weeks old, his mom took him in to the doctor for what she thought was a head cold. Michael ended up being diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta. This means that Michael’s heart pathway was very narrow, so his heart had to work extra hard to pump blood. Michael was put in the Intensive Care Unit while waiting for his heart surgery. He had to fight through several respiratory viruses before he was well enough for his surgery. Finally, at 9 weeks old, Michael underwent open-heart surgery. His family was so scared, but it went well. Michael will need another procedure when he’s older and has to refrain from contact sports. His family is so grateful for his medical team who continue to support him. Michael and his family walk in the Tucson Heart Walk every year in honor of Michael, their walking miracle! 
 
Ryder V

Meet Ryder

Meet Ryder. Shortly after Ryder’s 1st birthday he became sick. His parents took him to see a doctor and were told he just had a virus. Ryder continued to have a fever and developed a rash, so his parents took him to the emergency room. It took several doctors to eventually diagnose Ryder with Kawasaki disease and he began treatment immediately. Kawasaki disease causes inflammation in blood vessels and throughout the body and can lead to problems if not treated. Ryder was in the Intensive Care Unit for five days and responded very well to treatment. Doctors took a picture of Ryder’s heart and confirmed that his heart had not suffered any damage thanks to the quick treatment. Ryder has regular visits to his cardiologist for imaging and stress tests to make sure that his heart remains healthy and unaffected by his diagnosis. Ryder lives an active life. He loves flag football, basketball, jumping on the trampoline and riding his BMX bike!

California Kids With Heart

Alivia Gardner

Meet Alivia

Alivia was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome; meaning the left side of her heart was underdeveloped. Luckily her parents and doctors knew this before Alivia was born and were able to take measures to keep her as healthy as possible. She has had four open-heart surgeries and nine cardiac catheterizations.

Alivia’s favorite thing to do is color and paint. She likes to use watercolors and paints many pictures for her mom and dad. Alivia’s parents have experienced the lifesaving research of American Heart Association funded researchers firsthand. They know how important this is in saving little hearts like hers.

By participating in events like Kids Heart Challenge, Alivia brings awareness of the many ways the students, parents and teachers at her school can help children with heart defects.
Caleb P

Meet Caleb

Caleb was born with a special heart. When he was 3 months old, his doctors took images and found that Caleb had a hole in his heart. This prevented him from maintaining a healthy weight and caused him to sweat a lot because his heart and to work extra hard to pump blood. At just 9 months old, Caleb had surgery to cover the hole. When he woke up, he cried a lot, but his family took great care of him. Caleb had to visit doctors a lot when he was younger, but now his heart is healthy and strong! He’s proud to be a survivor. Caleb and his family encourage everyone to donate to the American Heart Association to support doctors who help kids with special hearts, just like Caleb’s!
 
young boy smiling with thumbs up

Meet Caden 

Before Caden was born, he was diagnosed with a heart defect. He was born with coarctation of the aorta, which means that a pathway in his heart was too narrow for the blood to flow properly. Caden spent 8 weeks in the hospital, having multiple surgeries and experiencing many complications -- like requiring a feeding tube to eat. Caden needed physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, warm water therapy and feeding therapy. 
When Caden was almost 4 years old he was diagnosed with scimitar syndrome which means that he had an abnormal connection between is heart and his lungs. He had to have yet another surgery to correct this condition.
Caden and his family have finally been able to settle into a relatively normal life and they love to watch him thrive. Aside from being a little smaller than other kids his age, you would never know the challenges that he went through early on. He loves to play football, basketball and eat. Caden and his family feel truly blessed and are so thankful for the American Heart Association and the research that helps advance medical treatments for kids. 
Francisco Saldivar

Meet Francisco

Francisco was born with a congenital heart defect and had been monitored by his cardiologist for years. In September 2018 Francisco’s cardiologist informed his family that he needed open-heart surgery to correct his septal defect. His parents were distraught as they prepared for Francisco to undergo this massive surgery. On November 13, 2018 at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, CA Francisco underwent open-heart surgery. Thankfully the cardiologist, nurses and staff ensured everything went smoothing and Francisco had a great recovery. Later in life Francisco may need additional procedures but for now he is under the supervision of his cardiologist, Dr. Ahmad R. Ellini, and his family thankful that he is under great care.
Jeremiah A

Meet Jeremiah

Jeremiah was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) before he was born. ToF means that four major parts of Jeremiah’s heart had defects. Despite this, Jeremiah was born pink and active! When he was 6 weeks old, he had open-heart surgery at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital. Jeremiah now sees his doctors for checkups every six months and will need to have more procedures done in the future. His family insists on having him explore and experience life to the fullest, instilling in him values of faith, service, love and hope. Jeremiah is active and thriving. He loves Taekwondo and singing in his school’s choir. He and his family love to raise funds for the Kid’s Heart Challenge and encourage everyone to give back when they can.
 
Kayden C

Meet Kayden

Kayden was born with a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF). ToF is a combination of 4 individual heart conditions. His parents learned about this heart condition and the need for surgery before he was born. Kayden had open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old at Miller's Children's Hospital in Long Beach, just before Christmas in 2012. During recovery, Santa even paid him a visit in the hospital! Kayden is expected to have several surgeries as he gets older. He has valves that will need replacement as he grows older. Although doctors said there was a possibility of Kayden not being able to keep up with his typical peers in exercise, he always seems to outrun his friends at recess. Kayden loves dinosaurs, puzzles, Legos, staging elaborate movie scenes and running.
California Mia 1

Meet Mila

Shortly after Mila was born, she was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot which means she had four different heart abnormalities that prevented her heart from pumping blood like it should. When Mila was 6 months old, she had open-heart surgery to correct her condition. Mila will need to have two more surgeries when she gets a bit older to replace valves. These valves only last about 15 years so, until researchers develop a permanent replacement valve, Mila might need surgery every 15 years. Mila and her family hope that one day, with the help of funds raised by the American Heart Association, researchers will create a permanent valve so that Mila doesn’t need to have ongoing open-heart surgeries.
 
Nixon S

Meet Nixon

Shortly after Nixon was born, he was diagnosed with total anomalous pulmonary venous return. This means that Nixon’s lungs and heart weren’t connecting properly so his oxygen levels were very low and it was hard to breathe. Nixon needed open heart surgery at less than 1 week old. His surgery was three hours long and he ended up needing another surgery within a month. He had three tubes put in to help drain fluids from his chest. His parents were so worried, but Nixon was tough and brave. He recovered well and was home within six days. Today Nixon has pictures taken of his heart yearly and sees his doctors regularly. He loves to show off his scar and tell people about how doctors fixed his heart. Nixon is a healthy and happy kid!

Hawaii Kids With Heart

11 jase hawaii

Meet Jase

Meet Jase. When Jase was 2 months old, his doctor observed that he had a heart murmur and a weak femoral pulse. Jase was referred to a cardiologist and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, ventricular septal defect, coarctation of the aorta, and aortic arch hypoplasia. This means that his heart had a lot of problems and would not be able to work without help. Jase was immediately admitted to intensive care. One week later, he was flown to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego where he underwent open-heart and diaphragm surgeries. For two months after his surgeries, Jase struggled with multiple complications and had to stay in San Diego. Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, he was cleared to fly back home to Hawaii. Jase continues to have regular checkups with his cardiologist, but aside from that, he is a happy, healthy and active little boy!
 

Idaho Kids With Heart

Meet Julia

Meet Julia. When Julia was 3 years old, she started complaining that her heart was beating too fast. After doctors took a picture of her heart, Julia was diagnosed with Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW). This means that Julia has an extra electrical pathway in her heart that sometimes causes her heart to beat super fast. When she was 7 years old, Julia underwent a heart procedure to figure out the location of the extra electrical pathway. After determining its location and extensive testing, her doctors determined she was not at risk for sudden death. Julia will have to undergo a cardiac ablation when she’s older and her heart is bigger. Although Julia has to take medicine daily, she’s an energetic and active kid! She loves singing in choir, Girl Scouts, garden club and attending church events.
Mia D

Meet Mia

Meet Mia. Mia was born with a heart problem that caused her heart valve to be thicker than usual. Because of this, her heart has to work extra hard to pump blood through that valve and to the rest of her body. Fortunately, Mia’s condition is getting better and better completely on its own and, although she has regular checkups, she has not needed to undergo any invasive procedures!
 
CHD survivor Reese

Meet Reese

When Reese was born she was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) and at only 5-weeks-old had open-heart surgery. She is now 11 years old and doing great. Her parents are diligent about keeping her yearly check-ups and want other parents to know that TOF is serious but common. They are thankful for thoracic surgeon, Dr. Ciccolo, who repaired Reese’s heart and many others in Las Vegas.
Baylee

Meet Baylee

Before Baylee was born, her doctors discovered that she had dilated cardiomyopathy. This means that the chambers of Baylee’s heart were enlarged so her heart couldn’t pump effectively. After she was born, Baylee had to stay in the hospital for a month before they let her go home. A few months later, after seeing cardiologists and going through numerous tests and procedures, Baylee’s kidneys began to fail and it was determined that she would need a heart transplant. Baylee and her family waited for months until, in October 2014, Baylee got her new heart! She has to take medicine daily, but she is a perfectly happy and healthy kid!
 
Young boy smiling

Meet Warren

Warren was born with a pulmonary stenosis, a congenital heart defect that means his blood wasn’t able to flow through his heart like it should. Warren has had multiple heart procedures and will need another procedure when he is 13 to place a special valve in his heart. Warren loves participating in and raising money for the Kids Heart Challenge with the hope that one day other kids like him will need less invasive procedures.