Isaac has endured 3 open heart surgeries, several heart catherizations, 2 hip surgeries and 2 leg surgeries.
I am a nineteen-year-old girl with congenital heart disease. When I was born my parents had no idea I had heart defects. It was not until the next day when the doctors and nurses swept me away to have my first heart catheterization procedure that they found out that I had congenital heart defects – pulmonary atresia with VSD and a mitral valve defect known as parachute mitral valve. So far, I have had four heart surgeries, several cardiac MRI’s, countless echocardiograms, and too many heart catheterizations procedures to count. When I was in Kindergarten, as well as my senior year, I spent six weeks in the hospital with a condition known as endocarditis. I was also hospitalized several times due to nutrition complications and respiratory complications that are quite common in children that have congenital heart disease. Through the years, I have become very familiar with the people and the places at Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as being accepted on to the children’s advisory board.
Although I spent so much time at the hospital, you would never have known that I had a heart condition. By the time I was three years old though, it started to become more apparent that something was not right. My skin was starting to change colors and I was becoming very tired, very quickly. I had a really hard time doing any physical exercise at all. I was starting to have the expected side effects of my previous heart surgeries and because of this, the doctors told my parents that it was finally time for the big surgery. They called it the final repair. During the 14-hour procedure, they closed the holes in my heart, gave me a new pulmonary valve, and did a minor repair on my mitral valve. After that, I was closely monitored by the doctors. The years went by and I lived as normal of a life that I could despite the medications and the scars on my chest and back that I lovingly refer to as my “beauty marks.” I tried to fit in with others by trying out many different types of physical sports. I found out that soccer, tennis and softball were not sports I was going to excel in. When I was 11, I joined our local 4-H group. I started out in 4-H doing archery but after a year I switched to shotgun sports such as trap, skeet and sporting clays.
When I was 13, I had another heart catheterization procedure done. My doctor told my parents and I that it was time for my fourth surgery. It had been ten years since my last surgery and I did not know what to expect. Dr. Fraser replaced my pulmonary valve and I also had another mitral valve procedure, too. I had the surgery and made a remarkable recovery.
After this surgery, when I was at the hospital for a check-up, something wonderful caught my eye, it was an advertisement for Camp Beaver Creek. It talked about hunting and fishing and I knew that I wanted to go to this camp! I had been shooting for a couple of years and knew that I had wanted to go hunting but never had the opportunity. I was so excited at the possibility of getting to go hunting for the first time that I was beside myself. After looking at the website the first thought I had was how exciting it would be to harvest a zebra. At this point though, I just wanted to see how I would do at hunting. Since I had just had surgery I was unable to attend the first camp, but I was told I would be able to attend the second camp
When I arrived, I was welcomed to a beautiful room and some camo Game Guard gear that I still wear! During the Hunt with Heart weekend at Camp Beaver Creek I had such a blast! I was able to harvest a Merino sheep! I had the time of my life! I think I had more fun than the boys! I have been able to show off my set of horns on many different occasions thanks to Taxidermy by John Guidry. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have been made available to me because of HWH. Opportunities that would not have been possible otherwise! As a result, I have volunteered with Hunt with Heart on every occasion that was made available to me. Not only was I able to attend Camp Beaver Creek, but I was also able to go to Canada with my Uncle. Please know that my life has been blessed because of everyone that took part in making my dream come true! Without Hunt with Heart I would have never been able to go hunting, much less go to Canada to hunt.
Hunt with Heart hosted their 2nd Annual Memorial Day Picnic at Beaver Creek Ranch for all of the Hunt with Heart Families and a few outside guests. The day was filled with fellowship, food, and lots of fun! We had activities for everyone- archery, hayrides, safari rides, roping clinic, gun range, fishing and activities at the lodge. There was something for everyone no matter your age! We recognized our 7 graduating seniors, from both college and high school. We are so proud of all the wonderful things they are accomplishing in life!
We started the day with morning activities and then once everyone worked up an appetite we headed back to the main lodge for hamburgers and hot dogs donated by 44 Farms. During lunch we had a special presentation from the
Texas Rangers. They talked about the history and what the day to day job is like as a Texas Ranger. Not only did they share a few things about themselves, but they also hung out with our young people throughout the day, that was a big deal for some of our young people and even their parents! It’s not everyday you get to hang out with a Texas Ranger, we were so thankful they were able to make time in their schedule for us! We also had a dog demonstration, from Curtis and his dog Jude. Jude would listen and watch for commands and respond/act accordingly to what Curtis was wanting him to do. After a delicious lunch and our two awesome presentations we were off to our afternoon activity to close out our Memorial Day Picnic.
The Memorial Day Picnic was a huge success and one of our biggest events of the years for our families to attend! The whole family gets the opportunity to witness the beauty and the magic that happens at Beaver Creek Ranch and we are so excited the Fatima Donaldson Photography was there to capture it for us as well as James Pharaon Photography.
During the first weekend in June, Hunt with Heart welcomed four new families into our Hunt with Heart family at Camp La Pesca, in Port O’Connor. Camp La Pesca is our fishing camp, which allows our organization to focus our efforts on a younger age group of kids and get them involved with Hunt with Heart sooner. The four families who attended grasped our mission from the beginning making camp a huge success. Throughout the weekend they were able to bond, create life-long friendships, and make memories that they won’t forget!
Our campers and their parents arrived at Camp
La Pesca on Friday afternoon. We did a quick meet and greet, went through the rules and schedule of the weekend, grabbed lunch, and then they were off on the water with their guides to kickoff their weekend! During the weekend their is non-stop fishing, the campers are even begging the guides to continue fishing after dinner each night. Our joke of the weekend was that we wished we could have just some of the energy that they have. Our Hunt with Heart guides are wonderful and want the campers to have the best experience and did whatever it took to make that happen, so they would take them night fishing for flounder. After fishing all day Friday and Saturday we got to come together and have a fish fry Saturday evening with the fish the campers caught. The campers really enjoy this part and ask as they are taking a bite of fish, “Is this the fish I caught?” They are excited that their hard work paid off and tasted so good too!
On Sunday morning, before everyone starts their journey back home we do a ceremony to recognize each one of our campers and talk about their accomplishments and what their guide saw in them that weekend. This a magical time during camp and a time that really brings everyone closer and tightens the bond that was made throughout the weekend! They are sent home with a picture frame and a bag full of fish that they had caught to share with the rest of their family!
2018 Camp La Pesca was a success and we are so thankful to have four new families added to our giant Hunt with Heart family! The fun has only begun!
“I was born on March 7th, 1996, in Albany, New York. A few day later I would undergo my first surgery for my heart as my parents sat worried in the waiting room. The first few years of my life were stressful for my parents until I had my last open heart surgery, the second fontan surgery, at 3 years old. Later on that year my family would end up in Kyle, Texas. I spent the next 15 years living in the same neighborhood until I moved out to attend Texas A&M. In those 15 years I learned to deal with my condition and the complications that come with CHD. I was never able to play tackle football, but I played 2 seasons of flag football. I was told that I had to stop participating in my jui jitsu classes, so I focused on the muy thai portions of my lessons. I played baseball, basketball, and tennis as I made my way through life. When I was a sophomore in high school I was invited out to Camp Beaver Creek for the first camp that Hunt With Heart would put on. That camp was the first real experience that I had with other kids who faced conditions similar to mine. Understanding that I wasn’t alone in my experiences helped me to have a brighter outlook on life.” -Tyler Gray
“I was born in June 2002, and although small in size appeared perfectly healthy. At 3 days old, Dr. Dreyer and staff greeted my parents in the NICU with different news and plans. I was born with congenital heart disease known as Tetrology of Fallot, which is 4 different heart defects: VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect), Pulmonary Stenosis, Right ventricular hypertrophy and an overriding aorta. These defects could only be repaired with surgery. I spent my first 6 months of life trying to gain enough to be at my healthiest weight possible for surgery, and on December 20th, 2002 open heart surgery was performed and the repair was complete. I struggled with many basic skills and required a feeding tube and physical therapy for the first few years. Growing up I didn’t show many differences from other kids around me, but I was always significantly smaller in size and stature. Although I have another surgery in my future, I won’t let it hold me back from what God has planned for me and what my future holds.
I wasn’t really into contact sports, or really any sports as a kid. I tried multiple activities, but it wasn’t until fifth grade that I found my true love. We took a trip to the school agriculture barn and I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of FFA. Although it wasn’t a normal thing kids in my town do, my passion for agriculture was far too big to not make known. As a freshman in high school I joined the FFA and started raising goats and now a steer. It was the best decision I ever made. I began joining teams and making so many memories. My love for the FFA and the great outdoors kept growing and growing and now I get to share my love with my brother Wyatt. It is a family effort, we love doing things together. The FFA program has brought me closer to my family and friends, but more importantly “out of my shell” and I could not be more thankful.
The experience Hunt With Heart gave me was truly unforgettable. I am so grateful I was able share my love for the great outdoors at Beaver Creek Ranch with amazing people. The memories I made helped me realize that everything the other kids and I went through just helped us gain amazing opportunities. I will never forget the amazing trip I went on and I hope I am able to someday become a camp counselor as well. I love Hunt with Heart and everyone that is a part of it.”
Hunt with Heart hosted their 12th Camp Beaver Creek and welcomed 6 new families into our Hunt with Heart Family during the first weekend of April.
Camp Beaver Creek is a weekend-long hunting, fishing and shooting experience for six young people battling severe illnesses and their parents. Due to the nature of their illness, most have not had the opportunity to play team sports. Camp Beaver Creek focuses on creating camaraderie, inspiring confidence and building friendships through the sport of hunting and fishing. This environment focuses on their abilities, rather than the restrictions of their disability. Camp is offered twice a year once in the spring and fall and serves as an entry point for families to become involved in Hunt with Heart.
The campers and their families arrived Friday afternoon, we had a quick meet and greet and lunch and then they were off to the range for a safety briefing and target practice. Each camper has to “qualify” by hitting a specific target before going out to hunt for the evening. Three of our campers went out to harvest their ram on Friday night, all of them had a successful hunt and were able to harvest a Corsican Ram. The other three campers went out to hog hunt or check out the rest of the ranch. Then next morning the campers switch, we had two harvest their rams that, but one ram was making it a little challenging and didn’t want to come out. But our camper didn’t give up hope and keep hunting in with a great attitude, they were finally able to harvest the ram early Sunday morning. Saturday night we hosted our banquet, which a time to look back on what had happened during the weekend and see how our campers, families, and guides have grown from their experiences. It’s a very magic time, a time you have to witness to fully understand it’s impact. Sunday morning after the last ram was harvested everyone got ready to head home after an amazing weekend of fellowship, making memories and eating amazing food.
During the weekend we also had a few special guest attend the camp, it was a great opportunity for our donors to see and witness the magic of camp and have a better understand of our organization and the families we serve. We were so thankful to have them. They made the camp very more special!
2018 Spring Camp Beaver Creek was very successful and we are so thankful to have gained 6 amazing new families with 6 amazing life stories!
Micheal was born was Transposition of the Greater Arteries (TGA) in 1995. In 2006, he had a bypass surgery and he currently is doing great!
“Hunt with Heart helped me have a second chance as to knowing that I’m not the only one out there that has this condition.” -Michael
“Cheyann’s heart journey began when I was 5 months pregnant with her. I went to my first ultrasound appointment. My husband was working and could not get off that day, so I went by myself, and had them record it for me. While I was watching the screen, the ultrasound technician did not say much, everything seemed normal. Since this was my 2nd pregnancy, I had been thru the routine before. She told me I was having a Baby Girl! Then after she was done, she said she would just have Dr. Hager, my OBGYN, come in here to see me since it was so late in the day, they were wrapping up seeing all their patients…….Immediately I knew something was wrong! That is not how it went with my first pregnancy…..the doctor did not see me in the ultrasound room. So many things were going thru my head all at once.
After my doctor came in and started looking at the ultrasound himself, the bad news came. My baby has something wrong with her heart, and her organs are not in the right place. He could see that there was a transposition of the great vessels, and that she only had one ventricle. He could also see that her stomach and liver were switched. He suggested I go see a specialist in Houston. The emotional roller coaster began! I called my husband, and he could not believe what I was telling him. I called my office in tears, as they were excited to find out what I was having also. One of my co-workers rushed up there to be with me, since she knew that my husband was at work over an hour away. Our world changed so fast at that appointment!
When we went to see the specialist, he said things did not look good for this baby, and that termination was an option, or we could go to Texas Children’s Hospital to see the cardiology team there. There was no way she would survive if we did not have her in Houston so that immediate intervention and surgery could save her. Of course, without any hesitation, option number one was not going to happen! We placed our baby girl in the hands of God and the cardiology team at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Cheyann was born on September 15, 2003……she was a beautiful, breathing, crying baby girl when she was born! Since we had started going to TCH prior to her arrival, the doctors and surgeons already had a plan in place for her. We knew before she was born that she would need 3 phases of heart surgery. Cheyann had her first heart surgery when she was only 9 days old. She had her Glen when she was 6 months old, and her Fontan was done when she was 7 years old. We were told the Fontan would need to be done around the age of 4-5, but since Cheyann had continued to do so well every year, it was put off until she was 7 years old. Dr. Fraser is an amazing surgeon, and we are forever grateful for him!
Last year in August 2017, just about 5 days before Hurricane Harvey hit, we were invited to go to Camp Beaver Creek with Hunt with Heart. We survived the hurricane, and made it to Hunt with Heart in October. Cheyann was so excited to go hunting! She had an amazing time there! We live in the country outside of Edna, TX, and our whole family loves to hunt and fish. She had a wonderful time meeting and spending time with other kids like her. Most people never imagine having a child with heart defects, and what it is like to constantly be aware of what is going on with them, and staying on top of any illness as simple as a runny nose or sore throat. Meeting the other families and sharing our stories really makes you appreciate so many things. The Hunt with Heart families will always have a special bond. We are so thankful to all the guides, donors, and volunteers who are involved in Hunt with Heart organization.
God has had a great plan for Cheyann! She loves to dance, she is active in Girl Scouts, FFA, and she loves helping others.” -Melissa Parks
My name is Nicholas Pelham and I was born here in Texas on March 07, 2001. When I was three years old my family and I moved to Hiawassee, Georgia but a year later we returned to Cypress, Texas. While in sixth grade, during a sports physical, a benign heart arrhythmia (heart murmur) was discovered. I was followed by a cardiologist annually with no restrictions; I was just another teen boy who enjoyed playing soccer and basketball with my friends. Three years later (2015), during my ninth grade year, I began dealing with chronic nausea and fatigue. This lasted for almost two months with no clear explanation from the doctors. In early November, my pediatrician suggested that my parents take me to the ER due to suspected dehydration. As directed, my mom took me and while there my heart stopped beating; I went into cardiac arrest. I spent the next 31 days in the Texas Children’s Hospital Cardiac ICU as the professionals tried to figure out what caused my severe heart and multiple organ failure. There were some very dark moments during that month where it wasn’t clear whether or not I would survive. Halfway through my stay, I was told I would require a heart transplant. My parents and the staff were going through the process of getting me on the list and I was scheduled to have open heart surgery to have an LVAD device attached to my heart. During the preparation stage, my body and heart began to show signs of improvement. Through what is rather miraculous on God’s part and the incredible efforts of the medical staff, I left the hospital 2 weeks later without ever having the LVAD surgery or a heart transplant. Six months later, I had an ablation to help remap the electrical firings of my heart and over the next two years I was weaned off all my cardiac medications. As of now, my heart is literally in better shape than it ever was before. Simply stated, I suffered arrhythmia induced cardiomyopathy. Although not 100% certain, the doctors believe I may have had an infection in my heart that didn’t “play well” with my arrhythmia which lead to my heart failure.
It is hard to explain how going through something like that, as a fourteen year old, can impact you or your family; between questioning why to praising God for still being alive, it can really take an emotional toll. I know it all happened for a reason and I have purpose. My family and I praise God every day. As of 2018, I am a healthy senior in high school. I am working on completing my Eagle Scout project for Boyscouts and am an active youth leader in my church youth group. I am working at my first job, am preparing to go to college and enjoy hanging out with my friends. Thanks be to God!
Being part of Hunt with Heart has been an amazing experience. The guides and staff are dedicated to each of us and to making each hunting experience as well as the other activities so very special. I have seen and experienced outdoor adventures that I never thought possible. It has also been humbling and comforting to interact with other kids, while not the same story, each with our own traumatic journey. My family has made friends with some other families in the program who uniquely understand what these heart trauma events are like. I can’t thank Hunt with Heart enough for the opportunities they have provided.