Harrison County

He was born with half a heart — on Saturday, he was playing in Jones Park

Rachel and Chris Etter participate in the Gulf Coast Heart Walk on Saturday, Oc. 1, 2016 with their twin sons Blake and Bryce.
Rachel and Chris Etter participate in the Gulf Coast Heart Walk on Saturday, Oc. 1, 2016 with their twin sons Blake and Bryce. jclark@sunherald.com

Rachel and Chris Etter of Gulfport were ecstatic when they found out she was pregnant with twins.

But somewhere around week 17 of her pregnancy, Rachel Etter received some devastating news. One of her babies was going to born with only half of his heart.

“We found Blake was going to be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS,” she said.

On Saturday, Blake and his twin Bryce were rolling in a double stroller through Jones Park as “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves played loudly over the PA. They were walking with the parents and grandparents in the American Heart Association Gulf Coast Heart Walk Heart Walk.

They turned 9 months old on Thursday.

HLHS basics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HLHS is a birth defect that creates a hole in the heart. As the baby develops, it can cause the underdevelopment of the left ventricle or aortic valve.

Blake and Bryce were born prematurely at 34 weeks, Rachel Etter said.

She said Bryce is perfectly healthy.

960Approximate number of babies born annually in the US with HLHS

“Blake had his first heart surgery at one month old and he came home at two months,” she said. “He had an additional heart surgery in July and he will have a third one when he turns three.”

Chris Etter said the surgeries allow blood to flow throughout his body.

“They kind of rewire him so the blood goes to all of the places it needs to go,” he said.

Rachel Etter said Blake and Bryce turns one in December.

“What they did during the first surgery is put something like a little straw inside because he only has one ventricle to help provide blood flow to his lungs and he’s also on lots of medications — when he first came home we had to weigh him every day and document his feedings.”

Gulf Coast Heart Walk

Saturday’s Heart Walk was a major fundraiser for the American Heart Association in South Mississippi.

2016 chairman Roy Anderson said the 2016 fund-raising goal of $375,000 had almost been met on Saturday morning.

“When all's said and done and all of the checks are in, we will probably have raised about $350,000 and that’s great,” Anderson.

And the money raised will go to help families like the Etters and others who have heart issues.

“The second we heard about this, we knew we had to come,” Rachel Etter said. “Blake’s grandparents and some our friends came to the walk as well.”

Although Blake may have to have a transplant one day, his mother said he is doing well these days.

“We’ve been very blessed,” she said.