Omaha, NE - At just three years old, Isaac Oldridge is full of life. Like any toddler, he loves playing with his older brother, five year old Alex. As the two boys crash monster trucks on their bedroom floor, it's apparent, they have a bond deeper than brotherly love. From the time Isaac was born, he's been in and out of hospitals and Alex has been right by his side.
Isaac was born with hypo plastic left heart syndrome. Fewer than one thousand babies in the United States are born with this defect every year. More commonly known as HLHS, it can be life threatening if not treated immediately. HLHS affects a heart's left ventricle, the left side of the heart doesn't pump blood, leaving the heart's right ventricle to pump excessively. Isaac's heart, the size of a walnut, was struggling to keep his growing body alive.
As Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Doctor James Hammel seen HLHS before and knew how to treat the defect. The procedure available at the time would temporarily fixed the heart, and most children need a heart transplant in the future. Hammel wanted more for baby Isaac and decided to try a surgery never done before in the Midwest. He began a series of heart surgeries to sculpt Isaac's heart until it worked normally. Looking at echo pictures, Hammel noticed scar tissue encased the heart making it stiff and impossible to pump blood. "Very carefully, with a tiny knife, I can reopen the places where the left heart valve should be free to move and I can shave away some of the scar tissue," Dr. Hammel would reconstruct Isaac's heart this way. Before Isaac was three, he underwent four major heart surgeries, the first one when he was just one week old. With each surgery, some of the stiff scar tissue was removed and more blood was forced to flow through the left side of Isaac's heart.
The series of open heart surgeries was a first for Dr. Hammel and Children's Hospital. Isaac became famous at the hospital, his story of survival gave new hope for other babies born with similar heart defects. At two years old, he starred in his own ad campaign, his face on billboards. In a Children's Hospital commercial, Isaac wears a red cape as he fights for his right, his mother narrates the story and calls her son a "caped crusader". His notoriety continues, February 2nd, 2013, The American Heart Association crowned Isaac as their "heart prince" at their annual ball.
After years of hospitals, doctors and painfully draining surgeries, Isaac is like any other child. "He's a normal three year old little boy, the doctors haven't limited him on anything and he doesn't limit himself on anything," his mom, Jennifer Oldridge, says Isaac is completely different from a year ago. "He was the kid who was at the back door watching the kids outside, he would get tired after doing something. He just couldn't do anything." Today, Jennifer has a hard time keeping up her son. Young Isaac may not understand everything he's been through but does know what he wants now. He has a wish to meet his favorite Walt Disney character, Micky Mouse, and that wish is about to come true. Make A Wish of Nebraska is sending the Oldridge family to Florida this month to make the childhood memories Isaac and Alex haven't made. "The entire family goes through this illness with the child," Make A Wish President Brigette Young says this is a new beginning for the family. While Isaac is about to meet his favorite superhero's, Isaac will always be a hero to his family and to the doctors who saved his life.