A Hawaiian boy who suffered congenital heart failure and underwent open-heart surgery at 2 months old is being hailed for becoming an American Heart Association (AHA) ambassador years later.
After Jase was born premature, his family was grateful to be able to bring him home from the hospital. But their world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with heart failure at his 2-month well-check.
Jase had been sleeping a lot and had stopped gaining weight. His pediatrician picked up on a “whooshing” sound in his heart and advised the family to take their infant to a cardiologist.
They were unprepared for what would come next.
“We just thought we were going in for a consultation and didn’t even pack any bags,” said Stephanie, Jase’s mom.
As it turned out, Jase had been born with not one but two heart defects. The only thing that could save him was open-heart surgery.
After a week in the hospital, he was in critical condition, and was transferred from Honolulu to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego for further treatment.
“It was such a frightening time because everything was happening so fast and they had told us he was OK when he was born,” Stephanie told AHA. “We didn’t have background in heart issues, so it was hard to take in.”
Jase received open-heart surgery on Oct. 12, 2013, during which doctors patched the hole in his heart and also removed a section of his aorta then reattached it.
Jase eventually returned home after two months at Rady, though his recovery was interspersed with several flights to Honolulu and checkups with his cardiologist.
His mom, Stephanie, says it was eye opening to realize heart problems could affect someone so small.
“I always thought about heart problems as an adult thing,” she told AHA. “But … I realized there were so many other kids with heart issues. It was so great to learn that people can survive and overcome many of these conditions now. It was a miracle Jase didn’t die.”
After living a childhood miraculously without health complications, Jase wants others to know how serious heart problems can be for people of all ages.
The now-7-year-old boy loves to swim and play with friends, and has become an ambassador for the American Heart Association.
His mother, Stephanie, told AHA that Jase “knows he had heart surgery, and wants others to know his heart is special.”
According to AHA, Jase has worked hard to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and the necessity of research and the development of new medical technology to help heart patients recover.
Nearly 1 percent of U.S. births are affected by congenital heart defects each year, according to CDC, and only about 1 in 4 of those are urgent enough to require surgery within the first year of life.
The medical technology and new developments Jase mentioned have made it possible for doctors to detect heart defects sooner, and have improved medical and surgical treatments to ensure extended lifespans for survivors of heart defects.
Stephanie stressed the importance of a network of support for families dealing with heart problems. “Just by being able to talk to someone else who could relate to my situation helped so much,” she said. “I’m hoping to one day be that support for other families.”