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Dreaming of the ‘Firsts’ Yet to Come: Ethan’s American Heart Story

By Allison Bonner | September 24, 2015 | Careers & Culture, Employee Spotlights

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Both Jeramie Mullis and Amy Anderson know firsthand the impact the American Heart Association can have on a family hoping to save a life. Thanks to the great work of the American Heart Association, they’re making strides to help save hearts and lives.

Dad, Jeramie and grandma, Amy – both BCBSNC employees – found out just how valuable a healthy heart is when little Ethan was born with a heart defect.

Meet Ethan

by Jeramie Mullis

My wife, Joye, and I welcomed our baby boy, Ethan, into the world in March of 2009 with all the excitement and optimism a young couple could have for their first born.  As we held our son on that bright Spring morning, we dreamed of all the “firsts” yet to come.  His first steps, first day of school, first ball game, first car…

Little did we know that, as the nurse swept him away for his standard newborn tests and screenings, all of those dreams would come crashing down around us mere hours later.

When the nurse entered the room without our son and uttered the words “heart defect,” everything went dim and silent around me and I felt as if I began spinning out of control.  The next few hours were a flurry of emotions as we learned new words like Pulmonary Atresia and Ventricular Septal Defect.

Ethan. Image by Jeramie Mullis
Ethan. Image by Jeramie Mullis

Our hopes and desires for the future of our beautiful boy narrowed dramatically from looking 10 or 20 years down the road to wondering if he would survive the next 24 hours.  As Joye and I held each other at his bedside in the Rex Special Care Nursery, Ethan’s was not the only broken heart in the room that day.

Later that evening, our boy was whisked away to Duke Hospital where two days later he would undergo an eight-hour open heart surgery that, afterward, was described by the surgeon as “sewing together wet tissue with invisible thread”.

Moving Forward, Planning Ahead

Ethan had some ups and downs during his stay and, all told, he spent the first 10 weeks of his life in the hospital.  He has since made a strong recovery and is now a thriving, curious, energetic six-year-old with his sights set on becoming a soccer player or a race car driver, depending on the day you ask him.

Just one lifetime ago, Ethan’s prognosis would have essentially been hopeless.  Thanks to relatively recent advances in the kinds of research and technology funded by the American Heart Association (AHA), kids like Ethan who are born with life-threatening heart defects now stand a real chance at a full and healthy life.

We will be forever grateful to the nurses, doctors, and surgeons who cared for Ethan and brought him back to us. We are also grateful to the AHA for funding and supporting the research and technology that allowed them to do so.

Support the American Heart Association and Find a Heart Walk Near You

We’re proud to support the American Heart Association and the important work they do in our community to keep hearts healthy and happy. You can show your support for the American Heart Association this fall by finding a Heart Walk near you.

You can watch more of Ethan’s story below.