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In 1968, when I was just three months old, I was taken from my mother's arms and rushed into emergency surgery. My skin tone turned to a sky blue color, and the doctors caring for me knew they needed to act fast if they wanted to save me. They needed to get oxygen to my vital organs, because my heart was failing.
The doctors did a temporary-fix surgery to improve my circulation and to buy them time in hopes that they would find a better solution. The surgery worked, but the question was: How long would it last?
Later that day, my mother was given words that no mother wants to hear. "Take him home to die," the doctors told my mom. Four open-heart surgeries and 45 years later, I am still here, proving those doctors wrong.
I am happy that through science and research, there are now medical devices and surgical techniques that are much more high-tech than what they had to work with 45 years ago. My gray hairs prove that I, a Tetralogy of Fallot baby, am still alive into my adulthood years.
I am proud to say that I am now a patient at Mayo Clinic living with congenital heart disease. I am living proof and hope for other patients who have this disease.
Scientists are still trying to find ways to prevent heart defects and determine what exactly causes this to occur in 1 out of every 100 babies. Continued research, improved advocacy, and increased awareness is making a difference for the millions of individuals affected by this disease.
On Sept. 12, Mayo Clinic will be a sponsor of Minnesota's Congenital Heart Walk, which will take place in Plymouth, Minnesota. I hope you can join us and hundreds of survivors, their families, friends and caregivers to unite to fight congenital heart disease.