WATERTOWN Heart disease doesnt discriminate by age; just ask Matthew J. and Erin A. Fazio, and Kiley J. Taylor and her fiance, C. Zack Flynn.
Parents of 17-month-old Dominic A. Fazio and 20-month-old Brenna R. Flynn, respectively, the Fazios and Taylor/Flynn family have spent most of their childrens lives with a variety of specialists, including pediatric cardiologists, as they fight to sustain their childrens heart health.
Since her last surgery, shes a completely different kid, Ms. Taylor said, regarding Brennas progression. Now shes got this new-found energy.
Shortly after Brenna was born, she had her first open-heart surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She had a second surgery there within the past six months which revised her aortic arch and a conduit a plastic tube from the upper part of her heart to the lower part was replaced.
Dr. George M. Alfieris, a pediatric heart surgeon at the hospital, said Brenna is one of the rarest medical cases he has seen in his career. Brenna was born with no aortic arch, which prevented a normal path for blood flow, and with truncus arteriosus, which is when a single blood vessel comes out of the right and left ventricles instead of two normal vessels. She also was born with a large hole in her heart and a few physical deformities.
Brenna cannot speak, but communicates with various facial expressions, and she cannot walk, but scoots on her butt to move around. She is unsteady, but therapists use a walker to help Brenna gain back strength to hopefully take her first steps.
Participating in the heart walk for the second year in a row, Ms. Taylor said its more about spreading awareness about heart disease and how the American Heart Association can help, rather than the $900 Team Brenna has raised thus far.
You never think of a little baby fighting for their life, she said.
Mrs. Fazio agreed. Dominics pediatrician, Dr. Shari M. Hogan, Watertown, discovered when he was a day old that he had a loud heart murmur. He was sent to Crouse Hospital, Syracuse, where he was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis. According to the American Heart Association, that condition occurs when a valve from the heart to the body that does not properly open and close and may also leak blood.
While he had one surgery to clear the blockage, he may need another.
With any heart defect, it may never be repaired completely, Mrs. Fazio said. Right now, his heart muscles are great. People dont think heart disease is prominent in young peoples lives. Ten years ago they probably wouldnt have caught my sons murmur. All of that research helped.
Paying it forward, Team Dominic has raised about $3,000 thus far.
American Heart Association spokeswoman Kristy Smorol said the fundraising goal for the 2014 walk is $230,000. The nonprofit will use the proceeds for research, training, advocacy and education for community members. In recognition of both Dominics and Brennas struggles, both children have been named inspirational honorees during todays North Country Heart Walk at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, off of Coffeen Street. A third honoree, 27-year-old Evie Dixon, has had heart troubles throughout her life, and just five months ago she received a pacemaker.
Walkers can register as of 8:30 a.m. today. The walk begins at 9:30 a.m. with a survivor ceremony. The one- or three-mile heart walk will follow at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit http://wdt.me/oYgGhb.