08/26/12 — Beating the odds with bicycles, T-ball

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Beating the odds with bicycles, T-ball

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 26, 2012 1:50 AM

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Jaiden Tart rides his bicycle in his family's driveway. When he was born, doctors said he would not be able to play like a normal child because of a heart condition that required three surgeries to repair.

For the first few hours of his life, Jaiden Tart was like any other newborn. As his mother cuddled him in her arms, Heather Tart dreamed of his life ahead -- learning to walk, playing ball and other sports, going to school and eventually having his own family. But then Jaiden started turning blue and the doctors knew something was wrong.

They took X-rays, but still could not find the problem. So the hours-old baby was rushed to Chapel Hill, where doctors discovered he had hypoplasty, a heart condition that affects only a handful of children.

"That meant that the right side of his heart was extremely smaller than the left side," Heather explained. "When they first told me, I didn't know what to think. I was extremely upset."

That was five years ago.

Since then Jaiden and his family have been through a lot -- including three surgeries -- just to keep the little boy alive.

Heather's parents were at the hospital in Johnston County when Jaiden was born, but went home thinking everything was OK.

"He looked just like a normal baby," said grandmother Faye Lane. "Then we got the call in the middle of the night. They told us what was wrong, and we were back there in probably 30 minutes."

The grandparents arrived just as the doctors were putting the tiny baby into a huge incubator for the trip to Chapel Hill.

"As they were wheeling him off, it was one of the most heartbreaking things ever," Mrs. Lane said. "I could not believe it. Jaiden's the sixth grandchild and they've all been healthy, no problems whatsoever."

Mrs. Lane followed the ambulance to Chapel Hill, not being able to get the image of her newborn grandson with purple coloring around his eyes, mouth and fingernails, out of her mind.

After a week of observation, the doctors told Heather her son would need three surgeries to live. The first came when he was just a week old.

"It was scary and stressful," Heather said.

Jaiden was about seven months old when he had his second surgery and three years old when he had the third.

"It was basically like a triple bypass," Heather said. "He doesn't use the right side of his heart; everything goes through the left side."

Because Jaiden would be using only one side of his heart, doctors told Heather that he would be severely restricted in his activities, especially sports related ones. They also warned her that Jaiden could have some developmental restrictions.

But the now 5-year-old is proving the doctors wrong.

He just finished his first season of T-ball. He rides his bike almost as fast as the wind. He takes his turn with his 7-year-old sister, Hailey, on the trampoline. And developmentally, he's just where a child his age should be.

Jaiden even went to pre-K last year.

But it hasn't been easy for Heather.

"When Jaiden was first born, I thought we were going to have to keep him still and not let him do anything," she said. "At first it scared me. When he started crawling and walking, it was scary. But the older Jaiden got, I let him do a little more. But I still kept an eye on him. Now every time he falls off his bike, I think, 'Oh my god.'"

His grandmother calls Jaiden a "nonstop" child.

"He's wide open," she said.

But she, too, still gets scared sometimes. Like when Jaiden jumps off the couch or porch.

"With having had his chest broken three times for surgery, it would be bad if he hit his chest on something," Mrs. Lane said.

Jaiden is too young to realize the full extent of what's going on.

"He knows he's got scarring on his chest," Heather said. "He used to pull up his shirt and say he was 'strong man,' showing his scars. It's just a normal thing to him."

And the family knows how lucky it is to even have Jaiden at all.

"The doctors told us that if this had happened 30 years ago, there would have been nothing they could have done," Mrs. Lane said.

But Jaiden may not be in the clear yet. There's a possibility he'll have to have a pacemaker or even a heart transplant when he's a teenager.

"We try not to think about the future," Grandma said. "But if he does have to have a pacemaker or heart transplant, we feel Jaiden will do well."