Like one out of every hundred children born in the United States, I was born with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD.) However, I was fortunate, in that my condition, a severe narrowing of the aortic valve called Aortic Stenosis, was immediately caught, and therefore was able to be operated on soon after my birth. The doctors performed a temporary fix when I was six weeks old but warned that eventually, likely during puberty, I would require a more serious surgery to permanently fix the damaged valve. So, for the first sixteen years of my life, I was able to live relatively normal, except for a few athletic restrictions. But finally, in July of 2015, the doctors decided they had waited long enough, and so I underwent an open heart surgery known as the Ross Procedure. The procedure lasted for seven and a half hours and led to a recovery of ten weeks. But the effects of the surgery were clear, as I was unrestricted in activity for the first time in my life.
Now, this on its own wouldn’t be very spectacular- thousands of kids my age have this surgery every year- but what became of it truly was. In response to three emails sent by my dad in March of 2015, businesses from around my home and all over the United States began to send messages of support. Between over a thousand cards from a local radio station, letters from athletes and celebrities, and gifts and videos from companies, the response was overwhelming. I felt guilty because I knew this was too much attention for just one person. It was all the attention I got that planted a seed in my mind to help kids with my condition the way I was helped.
What solidified this idea were the experiences I had in the hospital. I overheard my parents mention the high cost of living near a hospital for a week and about how other families who didn’t have the money were forced to live in the waiting room and to share food. Once I had recovered, and I began to discuss the idea with some of the people who had reached out to my family and me, it became apparent that we could do so much for kids in situations like me. And from that idea, Jeffrey Has Heart was born.
I have been blessed to lead JHH for the last four years and into the future. 50 kids later, I hope that what we do has been able to make an impact.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.