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Boy, 6, Who Was Born With Just Half A Heart Completes His First Triathlon

A 6-year-old boy in the United States, born with just ‘half a heart’, has startled the doctors and his family by completing his first triathlon.

Jack Foley was born with a rare condition that caused half of his heart to stop developing while his mother was pregnant.

He has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a birth defect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says affects fewer than 1,000 babies in the United States every year.

The disease affects normal blood flow through the body, and occurs when the left side of a fetus’s heart doesn’t form correctly during pregnancy. It is a type of congenital heart defect.

In the case of Jack, the left side of his heart was completely undeveloped, meaning his left atrium and ventricle could not pump blood.

Normally, the right side of the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood to the lungs, and the left side pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. For Jack his right side has to do both jobs.

A six-year-old boy astounds his family and doctors every day just by being alive, and now he’s gone one step further by completing his first triathlon. Jack Foley, who lives in Long Island, New York, was born with a rare condition that caused half of his heart to stop developing while his mother was pregnant

Jack was diagnosed with the disease when his parents, Lauren Kiefer-Foley and Rob Foley, went in for a routine 20-week ultrasound. That routine ultrasound looks at the anatomy of the baby, making sure everything is working correctly, and is also the time parents can find out their child’s sex.

The expecting mother was told by the doctor that there was an issue with how their baby’s heart was developing, and that they needed to go to see a pediatric cardiologist first thing the next day.

‘The doctors told us “we can’t see the left side of the baby’s heart,”‘ Kiefer-Foley told Daily Mail Online.

The expecting parents called their cardiologist straight away for advice. He told them not to be anxious, and referred the couple to a cardiologist in Manhattan, Dr Emile Bacha, who works at the Morgan Stanley Hospital at Columbia University.

‘I remember he specifically told me, “If this were my child, this is who I would want,”‘ Kiefer-Foley explained.

Before they could see him, they had to go back to other doctors to have tests done, and Kiefer-Foley said, at every appointment, the doctor recommended she terminate her pregnancy.

Then, when the couple finally went to see Dr Bacha, Kiefer-Foley said he gave them faith.

‘He said to me, and I remember the words exactly, “I can’t promise anything, but I believe there’s hope,’ she explained. ‘I am forever grateful for meeting him.’

The disease was diagnosed when Jack’s parents, Lauren Kiefer-Foley and Rob Foley (pictured in both photos with their son), went in for a routine 20-week ultrasound

HIS BIRTH AND 3 OPEN HEART SURGERIES – ALL BEFORE HE TURNED 3

On April 2011, Jack was delivered via a planned cesarean section . Just in case if there were any complications the parents have planned everything and was set and ready for him when he came into the world.

‘I couldn’t even see him for six hours after he was born. All I was told was that it was a boy, and that he had red hair,’ Kiefer-Foley explained.

When he came to the world he was immediately taken to a neonatal wing and given an echocardiogram, which is a specialized kind of ultrasound to look at the chambers of the heart. His mother said he was also given the medicines he needed to keep him well until his first procedure.

Jack was carried to full term, and delivered via a planned cesarean section on April 25, 2011. Four days later he had his first open heart surgery (pictured is Jack as he recovers from the first procedure)

He was just four days old when he had his first open heart surgery.

According to the CDC, surgery for HLHS is usually done in three separate stages.

The first procedure is called a Norwood procedure, and creates a ‘new aorta,’ connecting it to the right ventricle. Doctors also put in a tube to the vessels that go to the lungs, so the right ventricle can pump blood to the lungs and rest of the body.

‘They put a shunt into his heart that kept a hole open, it kept him alive,’ she said. After that, he recovered in the hospital for a few days, then finally got to go home with his parents.

‘A week-and-a-half after he was born, I finally got to hold my baby for the first time. This was my first child, it was so hard,’ she said.

The second surgery started rerouting his blood flow and was done in September of the same year, when four-and-a-half months old. He is pictured during recovery during the second procedure

Then, in 2013, when he was two-and-a-half years old, he had his third and final surgery, a Fontan Procedure. Jack is pictured after that surgery

Jack was four-and-a-half months old when he had his second surgery. In the second surgery the blood flow rerouted and was done in September of the same year.

It is called a Bi-directional Glenn Shunt Procedure, and reroutes things so that blood flows directly to the lungs, reducing the amount of work the right ventricle has to do.

Again, in 2013, he underwent his final and final surgery, a Fontan Procedure.At that time Jack was two-and-a-half years old.

That procedure reroutes things so that oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood are no longer mixing in the heart.

‘That final surgery completed his circulation. I remember the doctors described it to me by saying the second surgery rerouted his heart so that oxygenated blood could reach the top half of his body, and the third completed the rerouting so his whole body was receiving the oxygenated blood,’ Kiefer-Foley said.

‘He’s a completely normal child, which is not what we expected at all,’ Kiefer-Foley said. He is pictured right with the cardiologist who performed his surgeries, Dr Emile Bacha, and left wearing his hockey uniform. Hockey is his favorite sport

Now, he takes a diuretic and a baby aspirin every day, but that’s it.

‘He’s a completely normal child, which is not what we expected at all,’ Kiefer-Foley said.

‘Doctors told us all these things about what to expect, said he would need a feeding tube, said he would be kept in the NICU for six to eight weeks before coming home, but none of that happened,’ she said.

‘It was almost like, before he was born, he heard everything the doctors said he wouldn’t be able to do and thought “No, I’ll be able to.”‘

HOW JACK OVERCAME ALL ODDS TO BECOME A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 6-YEAR-OLD WHO LOVES TO PLAY SPORTS

Jack is now six-year-old who loves playing with his friends and going to school.

‘No one would even know he had the disease until they saw his scar. He graduated top of his class from Kindergarten, he’s very bright,’ his mother said.

‘Doctors told us he might not have a lot of energy; they said he might take longer to walk or tire out more easily than most children. It’s just the opposite.’

An avid ice and roller hockey player, the six-year-old loves sports, so when he found out his cousin Michael was doing a children’s triathlon, he had to do it too. Jack and Michael are pictured together at the race

HOW JACK OVERCAME ALL ODDS TO BECOME A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 6-YEAR-OLD WHO LOVES TO PLAY SPORTS

Jack is now six-year-old who loves playing with his friends and going to school.

‘No one would even know he had the disease until they saw his scar. He graduated top of his class from Kindergarten, he’s very bright,’ his mother said.

‘Doctors told us he might not have a lot of energy; they said he might take longer to walk or tire out more easily than most children. It’s just the opposite.’

Jack is now an avid ice and roller hockey player. He loves to play sports so when he found out his cousin Michael was doing a children’s triathlon, he had to do it too.

On June 17, he completed the Long Beach Children’s Triathlon, that saw him swim the 25-yard length of a pool, bike 475ft around a park and then run the 500ft distance around a baseball diamond.

With just half a heart Jack completed the race in the same amount of time it would have taken any other six-year-old.

‘It had a special meaning to us, because my brother Michael did a triathlon just two days before he was killed on September 11. He was a firefighter and died in the attack on the World Trade Center,’ Kiefer-Foley said.

In the future, Jack could have complications or need another surgery, but the family is optimistic

The mother said that the doctors don’t know what causes HLHS, and that it could be genetic or it could be just a random defect. Both the parents refused to go in for genetic testing because they aren’t going to have any other children.

‘We just really want to focus on Jack and what he needs,’ she explained.

In the future, Jack could have complications or need another surgery, but the family is optimistic.

‘A lot of doctors have told us there’s a good chance he will need a heart transplant down the road, but we’re remaining positive. I mean he’s proved doctors wrong before,’ Kiefer-Foley said.

‘He’s such a miracle. Jack loves to swim, he loves running around with his friends, he’s the most active child.’ she said. ‘We’re really just so lucky.’

Photo: Dailymail

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190 COMMENTS

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