My name is Nathan
I am 8 years old.
I am Imperfectly Perfect.
Nathan was born with an absent left pulmonary artery. A condition that is very rare and typically not found until adulthood, when it is too late to be corrected. There were no symptoms of his condition in childhood. He was rocking a very active and healthy lifestyle up until the time he was diagnosed. When he was 6, he had the flu and a doctor heard a heart murmur. He sent Nathan to a pediatric cardiologist who discovered the absent left pulmonary artery. They say “absent” left pulmonary artery because it isn’t where it should be. His right lung and the right side of his heart were doing all the work. Nathan’s heart murmur was unrelated to his condition but, it helped the doctors get him the care and treatment he needed. The AMAZING doctors at The Sibley Heart Center, in Atlanta were able to place a stent into Nathan’s LPA, which had never seen blood flow before the procedure. Until my little boy, that procedure was considered impossible after age 2, Nathan was 7 at the time when he underwent the procedure to place the stent. In October, a year later, at age 8, Nathan had his first open heart surgery. His surgeon was able to successfully use biological tissue to connect his Left Pulmonary Artery. Now both sides of Nathan’s heart and lungs are working!
My son’s story could have gone much different. If his heart defect hadn’t been discovered, he would have had major complications as an adult and eventually heart failure. Unlike many with CHD, Nathan had a very healthy childhood with no symptoms and now that they have corrected his issue, Nathan has no restrictions and only takes an aspirin daily. I know my little boy is lucky in so many ways!
The show, American Ninja Warrior, gave Nathan so much hope when he was first diagnosed. So many of the men and women on that show have overcome so much on television and in their own lives. Nathan’s goal is to be on American Ninja Warrior, to give hope to all of his fellow heart warriors! The dream of being an American Ninja Warrior is really, what helped Nathan the most during his open- heart surgery and the recovery Nathan’s dream of being an American Ninja Warrior inspired him to get back out there and start training as soon as doctors cleared him to do so.
Open-heart surgery is by far the most difficult thing my son has had to face in his life and, as his mom, it is also the most difficult thing I have had to face as well.
However, this whole journey has taught me that both myself and Nathan, can overcome anything.
Nathan has learned some things along the way, some of them were pretty hard (like how to stand up for x-rays right after heart surgery with two chest tubes in) but, he also learned that he can do hard things!
As a parent of a heart warrior I have learned that those moments,
those days, those months
where you feel unable to get through
are only crippling
if you let them.
In my darkest place, I had to force myself to reach out and admit that I couldn’t do this by myself. That one text was the bravest/best thing I could have ever done for myself. My best advice would be to let your support system in, let people help you. This journey is too scary and overwhelming to try by yourself. People have told us we are so brave to be so open about Nathans story but, they don’t understand that…
the more we talk about it, the stronger we become!
-Written by Mom, Jennifer