Meet AJ: 2022 Family Advocacy Day Champion

AJ is participating in Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day from June 12-14. Through this event, AJ and his family will discuss his health journey, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital’s role in providing him with necessary health care services, and why the public and our elected officials must invest in the future of patients like AJ.

AJ was born with pulmonary valve stenosis, a congenital heart defect which causes narrowing of the valve between the heart chamber and the lung arteries. Shortly after he was born, he was immediately transferred from Methodist Germantown to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

“It was a very emotional time for our family,” says Tracye, AJ’s mother. “We really had no idea exactly what AJ’s condition was during this time.”

Within 24 hours of his birth, AJ had a valve balloon valvuloplasty where a catheter was inserted into his heart and inflated to expand the narrow opening of his heart valve. He then spent the next three and a half weeks in the NICU recovering and growing stronger.

At AJ’s eight-and-a-half-month check-up the family was told that the valve still wasn’t functioning properly, and that AJ was experiencing mitral valve regurgitation, meaning the heart valve wasn’t completely closing and blood was leaking backward across the valve. 

After two more attempts to fix the issue using the balloon valvuloplasty, doctors determined that AJ would need open heart surgery and in November 2009 surgeons successfully replaced AJ’s heart valve.

“We are so grateful for the wonderful care AJ has received at Le Bonheur,” says Tracye. “They’ve treated him as if he was one of their very own from the day he was born.”

AJ is now 13 years-old and doing great. He’s an active teen and likes playing basketball. His cardiologist, Dr. Waller, reports AJ has no major health issues with routine check-ups to keep an eye on his heart as he grows through his teenage years.  He may need another open-heart surgery in the future, but they are holding out as long as they can.

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