- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - All it takes to fix a small heart is for a lot of other people to have big ones.

At least that has been the experience for 7-month-old Selavel Brown, who was previously featured in the April 16 edition of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Selavel was born with a rare congenital heart defect that would have killed him if left untreated. Specifically, the bottom half of his heart formed backward, and the wall that separates oxygen-rich blood from oxygen-poor blood never fully developed.

Selavel’s parents, James Brown and Cherry Burrous, knew they had to get him to a specialist in California if they wanted their son to have any chance at surviving beyond a year.

But while they could expect insurance to cover the costs of Selavel’s surgery, they needed money to help pay for the trip and the several weeks they would be taking off work.

Fortunately for them, Cheyenne can be a giving community.

Not long after the article ran, more than 30 people donated $3,640 to a GoFundMe website set up to help pay for the family’s trip.

“It was extremely helpful,” Cherry said. “It allowed us to get plane tickets and book a hotel for the first week we were there.”

Added James, “We wouldn’t have been able to do this without it.”

Thanks to the donations, Selavel and his parents were able to fly out of Denver to Las Vegas and on to San Jose, California, arriving there on May 12.

From there they took a train the rest of the way to Redwood City, home to the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.

His Cheyenne doctor had been waiting to hear a heart murmur, which is the initial sign of heart failure.

“When they heard that, they said they didn’t want to wait any longer to get it done,” James said.

On May 20, Selavel was operated on by Dr. V. Mohan Reddy, one of the top pediatric heart surgeons in the nation. But even so, his parents knew the nature of Selavel’s condition meant a successful surgery was hardly a guarantee.

“He went in at 8 in the morning, and he was in there until - we didn’t get to see him until after 7:30,” Cherry said. “I sat and cried for about a half an hour while we were waiting.”

But in the end, Selavel came through with no complications. In fact, doctors were surprised by how quickly he was able to be transferred out of the cardiovascular intensive care unit after surgery.

“They rerouted his arteries into and out of his heart. Plus the blood flow in the lower chambers was fixed, they patched the hole between the ventricles, and they put in a pacemaker,” James said. “He was only in (the unit) for two days. He didn’t even cry once when they pulled the chest tubes out.”

Now, aside from the oxygen tube across his nostrils, Selavel looks like any other healthy baby, back at home in the loving arms of his parents.

James said their son still will have to take several medications for the next few weeks, and he will be on aspirin for the rest of his life. But thanks to the surgery, he now has a life to look forward to.

“He’ll need at least one more minor surgery to move the pacemaker,” James said. “He won’t be able to ride roller coasters, and anything with a strong magnet he has to stay away from. But they’ve said he should live a fairly normal life.”

In the meantime, Cherry said she is trying to find the words to thank everyone who helped pay for the trip, including those who paid hundreds of dollars - and in one case even a thousand.

“Oh my God, it was amazing,” she said. “I haven’t been able to talk to anybody who did donate since we’ve been back. But I have posted updates and everything to the GoFundMe page. I’ve been trying to get thank you cards sent out.”

The trip also has given the parents some perspective on their own fortunes. They said that as bad as his case was, they met people in much worse situations at Redwood City.

“One kid we befriended had no left chamber in his heart,” James said. “The family had been there for a year and a half, quit their jobs, sold their houses and are living in that place waiting for transplants.”

Added Cherry, “We’re lucky, considering what our son went through. Just seeing all those other kids and what they’ve had to deal with was kind of amazing.”

___

Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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