Baby boy survives after surgeries

Carl Griffin

Kayla and Carl Griffin were ecstatic when their seemingly perfectly healthy baby boy was born near Dallas on June 4, 2016.

But not even 24 hours later, they knew something was wrong with Carl Thomas ("CT"). He breathed rapidly. He felt clammy. He didn't even cry.

After rounds of observations with several doctors, CT was finally diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

Doctors then told the Griffins to sign off on blood transfusions and make life-or-death decisions. Not sure whether CT would even survive the 40-minute helicopter ride to the hospital, they advised Mom and Dad to say their goodbyes. Fortunately, CT survived the ride — and four subsequent heart-related surgeries.

Finally approved for a heart transplant at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the family left Dallas for good in January 2017. But after 27 days as a patient, doctors determined that CT didn't need a new heart.

By all accounts, he's now a "normal" HLHS patient. He will need more surgery, but through it all, the Griffins remain positive.

"He is literally our pride and joy," Kayla said. "We built a new life in Houston and we would do it over and over and over again for CT." The Griffins know that CT probably wouldn't be alive without research funded by the American Heart Association. That's why they advocate for others and why Kayla now works for the AHA — and "loves every second of it."