BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – One in every 125 babies in the US is born with a congenital heart defect, 12-year-old Ryan Walls is one of them.
“She was born 6 weeks prematurely, on August 23rd, and 30 minutes after being born, she had her first pacemaker implanted,” said her mom, Meredith Walls, “In her situation, the strip that connects the atrium to the ventricles was damaged, so the top chambers were beating normally and the bottom chambers were not.”
She had three surgeries by the age of five, and played through life like any other kid, until she turned this past year. Her pacemaker was supposed to last until spring, but in late September, it started to give out.
“Her heart-rate had dropped backed down to the 20’s and 30’s range and the pacemaker basically kind of went into like a reserve mode,” said Walls.
Ryan was rushed to the Medical University of Charleston for surgery, but even that didn’t get her spirits down.
“I read the entire Harry Potter series waiting to get surgery,” Ryan said.
“We were discharged, only to be evacuated for Hurricane Matthew when we got home, so it was a crazy time, but we feel really lucky that it happened before the storm hit,” Walls said.
Because she was big enough to receive an adult pacemaker, this one should last through every storm, until she’s 32 years old.
“I’m just happy she’s here, happy she’s healthy, she’s living a normal life, there’s no restrictions on activities that she can do, the sky’s the limit for her,” Walls said, “For us, it’s really about getting it out there, getting your child checked, whether it’s like blood oxygen levels, echo cardiograms… it may be expensive but if it saves their life, it’s priceless.”
That’s why they’ve created the “Young Heart Warriors” team to represent not just Ryan, but all children with CHD in the Palmetto Heart Walk, and their message: “Even if you do have CHD, it’s not who you are, it’s just a part of you,” said Ryan.
If you’d like to participate in the Palmetto Heart walk on Saturday, April 29th, you can sign up for free on their website at palmettoheartwalk.org.