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Josiah Shirlee's Story

     It was in November of 2016, at the age of 5, Josiah, now age 9, suffered the first of two heart attacks while playing tennis with his siblings. He was pale, extremely sweaty, and out of it. I remember the older kids running upstairs to tell me something was wrong with him, and he needed his inhaler. He had asthma and we assumed he had an asthma attack and treated him accordingly. After a few hours he seemed to bounce back, and all was well by the next day. Fast forward to 7 months later, he is now 6yrs old and while participating in a basketball camp at a local college he “passed out” on the basketball court.  Again, it was thought that it had something to do with his asthma. They picked him up and took him to the side to treat him. He was okay. His father had taken him to camp that day and witnessed the ordeal. Josiah came home and told me about it. I was terrified.


     He said he felt weird and didn't feel well. He asked to go to the bathroom and was told to wait just a few moments and they would go as a group. He said he then walked back, sat down, and passed out. I immediately called the doctor’s office to make an appointment because now this was twice that he "passed out" and it was clear to me it wasn't asthma.


     We were told at that doctor's visit, by the nurse practitioner, that he was probably just dehydrated, and we should make sure he eats and gets hydrated before playing sports. I was flabbergasted and knew that couldn't be the reason and I told her so. My husband then states, “my wife has heart issues” and asks if it could be his heart. She thought for a moment and said "perhaps", and she would refer us to the cardiology department. Within two weeks we had an appointment, test and procedures performed, and it was discovered he had AAOCA of the left coronary artery. We were told that the occasions on which he “passed out”, were heart attacks and it was a miracle for him to be alive.


     Since Josiah's anomaly was of the left coronary surgery was required. At that time our local children's hospital didn't have a cardiac surgeon and we decided it was best that we travel outside of our home state of Arkansas and go to Texas Children's Hospital as they specialized in pediatric coronary anomalies. Well, Hurricane Harvey hit, and the surgery got pushed back a few months. During our waiting period Josiah was homeschooled through the school district. He wasn't allowed to play sports or participate in any activity that would accelerate his heart, this included being overheated. It was very important NOT to get sick six weeks before surgery or it could be postponed.


     Finally, surgery day comes, Dec.7th, 2017. It was an overwhelming experience as a parent. Nothing can prepare you for it. Surgery was a success though there were complications and he ended up having a partial collapsed lung. Before surgery we were told he would be awake and fine afterwards.  However, due to complications he came out of surgery on a ventilator for two days while the lung healed. It was literally the scariest time in our lives. We experienced every emotion and came out victorious! Our son is a miracle! He beat all odds. He's been playing sports and keeping active with no issues at all. He took his best shot in life thus far and got nothing but net!

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