LARSON: Little hero really has a heart

Jackson Alexander Vicknair

Jackson Alexander Vicknair

“Not everyone gets to meet their hero,” Kristen Vicknair said. “Well in my case, I gave birth to my hero!”

When Devin and Kristen Vicknair of Dacula went to the doctor to see if their second child would be a boy or a girl, they never expected the additional news the ultrasound revealed.

“The results became surreal as we found out that our baby at 18 weeks gestation was going to be born with a heart condition. Our unborn son was diagnosed with a complete congenital heart block,” Kristen Vicknair said.

On Feb. 5, 2004, Jackson Alexander was delivered by C-section.

“We were not sure if he would require surgery following his birth, but we were definitely prepared for any procedures,” she said.

That included little Jackson who “grabbed the doctors finger and held on tight to come into this big world full of uncertainties…he was ready to hold on for the ride.”

In 2009, Jackson had his first open heart surgery.

“Today, Jackson still lives with the complete heart block at age 10. He is restricted from some sports and activities, but he is a free spirited boy who enjoys life to the fullest, which includes eating chocolate, playing in the creek, building with robotics and driving his big brother Cameron crazy,” Vicknair said. “We still visit Dr. Neil Videlefsky with Pediatric Cardiology Services every 6 months. What a fantastic doctor and staff! I could not have made it without them.”

The Vicknairs are not alone in their experience. Congenital heart defects are the world’s most common birth defect and the leading cause of infant deaths in the U.S. Nearly one of every 100 babies is born with a CHD. Each year worldwide more than 1 million babies are born with this defect. 100,000 of them never see their first birthday. Thousands more die before they reach adulthood.

But there is hope. The Children’s Heart Foundation, which is the only organization created to exclusively fund congenital heart defect research, is making progress towards helping in the diagnosis and treatment of CHDs, even though little is known about the cause and so far there is no prevention or cure. However, in the last decade death rates for CHDs have declined by almost 30 percent due to advances made through CHF’s research.

Despite his limitations, Jackson has been helping the cause by participating in walks to raise money for The American Heart Association. He’s also debuted in an AHA video to educate others about his condition.

His proud mother, who serves as vice president of the Georgia Chapter of CHF, said, “He continues to love life to the fullest each and every day, just like a hero should!”

You can help this little hero and others like him by participating in the CHF 5K Event on Saturday, May 10 at Stone Mountain Park. Registration opens and pre-walk activities begin at 8 a.m. The walk kicks off at 9:30 a.m. For more information visit Georgia.ChildrensHeartFoundation.org.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.