A few weeks after Michael’s birth on Valentine’s Day, his mother, Mei, noticed something wasn’t right. When he nursed, he turned slightly blue and couldn’t stay awake for long. Michael’s pediatrician found a heart murmur and immediately connected the family to Children’s National Hospital.
The next day, they met with cardiologist Dr. Gerard Martin. He diagnosed Michael with a severe coarctation, which is a narrowing of the aorta. The family decided to forgo the traditional surgery and opt for a less invasive, experimental procedure with a shorter recovery time. When Michael was almost a year old, the doctor inserted a balloon into his aorta to widen the blood vessels and allow his heart to work normally.
“It was such a roller coaster going from a smooth pregnancy and delivery to learning Michael had a life-threatening heart defect,” Mei recalls. “Dr. Martin was wonderful and explained the pros and cons of both approaches. We trusted him.”
Michael’s heart condition caused developmental issues that make it difficult to gain weight. He realized early on that he wasn’t built for contact sports and found his passion in music. The drums were a favorite, leading him to form a rock band, Half Past Six, with friends in middle school. He played in his high school jazz band and mentored other students. He also loves photography and table tennis.
These days, Michael, now in his early 20s and a college student, visits Dr. Martin for yearly checkups. “The nurses and doctors are outstanding and have always treated me like family,” he says. “They put me at ease.”
His dream is to become a diplomat. “I relate well to other people and want to make a difference. I’m grateful to Children’s National for making it possible for me to reach this point and plan for my future.”
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