HERMITAGE — Nine-year-old Emilee Mathews of Hermitage is now healthy and active. The Artman Elementary School student enjoys gymnastics, swimming, soccer and dancing.
It wasn’t always that way.
At birth, Emilee’s pediatrician identified a small heart murmur and referred her to a specialist, who diagnosed an atrial septal defect - a hole in her heart that would cause the upper right chamber to overwork and damage the heart muscle.
A month shy of her second birthday, Emilee underwent open-heart surgery at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Within 24 hours, she was out of intensive care. On day three, Emilee was playing games and riding around the halls on a Winnie the Pooh bike.
At that point, according to her mom Amiee, the surgeon said, “I think we can let her go home now.”
”Our daughter’s heart is now considered normal,” Amiee said. “The key is early detection.”
Emilee is the 2013 Heart Child for Mercer County. She and her family will attend the Heart Ball and make an appeal to help raise critical funding for education, research and medical advances to help children and their families lead longer, healthier lives.
Emilee said she is excited to attend the Heart Ball with her mom and dad in her new “sparkly pink” gown. She said her mom “looks like a queen” in her dress.
Co-chairing this year’s Mercer County Heart Ball are Bill and Lisa Hoodin of Sharpsville.
Guest speaker for the annual fundraiser is Dr. Sandeep K. Jain, director of the UPMC Passavant Electrophysiology Laboratory and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The ball, set for 6 to 11 p.m. Feb. 23 at Avalon Country Club at Buhl Park in Hermitage, benefits the American Heart Association, Mercer County division. Guests enjoy a lavish dinner, music, dancing and live and silent auctions. Registration for tickets closes Friday Feb. 15.
”At first we said, ‘Why did this happen to us? “ said Amiee. “But this was such a blessing in the long run ... if we can help just one child have early detection.”
Karen Colbert, regional director of communications for the American Heart Association, contributed to this story.