Sydney McFall   |   October 17, 2018

Dalton’s Story

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A Young Man’s Journey

Dalton Waggoner was born at 32 weeks old and his parents were filled with love for their healthy baby. However, two days after birth he was diagnosed with Unicuspid Aortic Stenosis, a very rare congenital heart defect. His parents were told that in 1-6 hours he could go into cardiac arrest. “As a parent, I guess I took for granted that babies were born healthy. You can’t think, process, or comprehend what your child is about to endure when initially diagnosed with a congenital heart defect,” Susan, his mom, said.

“Dalton’s journey is just that – a journey. His condition is not one that can be fixed but only monitored through follow-up appointments and repairs until the next procedure.”

Dalton had his first open-heart surgery at three days old. He was sent home at 13 days old and wasn’t expected to survive through the week. The Waggoners were devastated. However, Dalton continued to amaze everyone around him as he kept growing. “Dalton’s journey is just that – a journey. His condition is not one that can be fixed but only monitored through follow-up appointments and repairs until the next procedure,” Susan said.

Never Giving Up

Through years of cardiologist appointments, Dalton continued to survive and thrive. He became an active and outgoing child. However, when Dalton was eleven he started to have less energy. So, it was determined he needed the Ross Procedure. This would replace his aortic valve with his pulmonary valve and replace his pulmonary valve with a cadaver valve. On June 6, 2016 he had the procedure. However, two days later he had to have another open-heart surgery to remove a hematoma that formed. “The Ross Procedure wasn’t the perfect fix we had hoped,” Susan said.

“He was clasped in my arms in his middle school hallway crying and questioning what would happen if the doctors couldn’t figure out why his body was rejecting the valve. I didn’t have an answer. All I could tell him was that we had not given up before and that we weren’t going to start now.”

The cadaver valve began narrowing and was rejected by Dalton’s body. This was the hardest news the Waggoners had received since Dalton’s diagnosis. Dalton was now 12 years old and truly understood what was happening. “He was clasped in my arms in his middle school hallway crying and questioning what would happen if the doctors couldn’t figure out why his body was rejecting the valve. I didn’t have an answer,” Susan said. “All I could tell him was that we had not given up before and that we weren’t going to start now.” In November 2017, Dalton underwent his fourth heart surgery, the Melody Procedure, which used a catheter to place three stents and a new pulmonary valve in Dalton’s heart. It was a success!

13 Days to 13 Years

Originally not supposed to survive past 13 days, Dalton is now 13 years old. He loves playing basketball, swimming and spending time with friends. Thanks to research, the Melody Procedure that saved Dalton’s life was developed and approved for pediatric patients. Susan said, “Although today his condition is not “fixable,” we hope that with continued research that might change.” New and continued research is what will find a cure for CHD. To do that, awareness and research funding are needed.

To help kids like Dalton in the fight to defeat CHD, click the Donate button!

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