When Garrison was just 7 years old, he met Harley, 8, at Camp Braveheart. Declaring her the prettiest thing he’d ever seen, he asked her to dance. Still connected six years later, Harley recently returned the favor by asking Garrison to her first high school homecoming dance.
Garrison was diagnosed at birth with Hypoplastic Right Ventricle, which was corrected with a transannular patch. Jennifer was told her newborn’s life expectancy could be anywhere from eight days to 80 years, and she was cautioned that his little heart was too weak to even handle her gently stroking his arm.
Harley was diagnosed with Pulmonary Valve Stenosis and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) at birth. She was able to go home at 3 days old, but it took her two months to gain a single pound, said her mom, BJ. Harley underwent surgery to patch the VSD. Doctors continue to watch the pulmonary valve as she grows and still has regurgitation.
Both BJ and Jennifer admit to being nervous when they sent their children off to Camp Braveheart, where they don’t have contact with their kids for a week.
“The first year I sobbed,” Jennifer said. “It was the worst week of my life. I was paralyzed. When you see your child go through so much, it makes you want to keep him in a bubble. But he came home from camp and said, ‘It was the best week of my life, mom! I wasn’t different.’”
And connecting with Harley and other new friends at camp was priceless to Garrison. They keep in touch and support each other as only other heart kids can do.
Watching how they respond to each other on the last day of camp – you can’t leave there without crying,” BJ said. “When you walk in and they’re singing the last song of camp together, it’s indescribable. They’ve made lifelong friendships, and they bring that feeling of camaraderie home with them when camp’s over. The connection is heartwarming.”
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