Hayden is 23 and his little brother Kristian, far left, is just 21. They have heart valve dysfunction.
But they are lucky. They’re still alive to enjoy this Christmas with their family.
Deaths of Australians from heart valve disorders have nearly doubled in the space of 10 years. No-one knows why – yet.
The really scary thing is that heart valve disease often has few symptoms or none at all.
To our horror for the next two week, our strong and fit 15-year-old was hooked up to machines in intensive care.
You can have severe valve damage and not notice it. No wonder the condition is linked with sudden death.
Hayden’s family was preparing for Christmas in 2007 when he came down with what looked like a mild virus.
“Except it got very bad, very fast,” says his mum, Stephanie. “To our horror for the next two week our strong and fit 15-year-old was hooked up to machines in intensive care.”
Hayden had a heart infection, called ‘endocarditis’. It destroyed delicate parts of his heart valve vital to keeping him alive.
Only emergency donor-valve transplant surgery, developed by medical research, saved Hayden’s life against the odds. Not once but twice – when the infection returned two years later.
At age 14, Hayden’s brother Kristian was found to have heart valve dysfunction and later was saved by a complex valve transplant.
For other people, heart valve disease starts from wear and tear over time. Or it can develop after a heart attack.
The valve opening narrows. Tiny flaps of skin that are the ‘gate’ controlling blood flow stop working properly. That can be lethal.
Thanks to previous medical breakthroughs, amazingly Hayden and Kristian are still here to tell their story.
They’re now caring and active young men their parents are proud of. And they’re grateful for each new day, particularly at family celebrations like Christmas.
But neither really knows what tomorrow holds. In the future Hayden will need more surgery as his second valve transplant will eventually fail.
He simply says, “Today I owe my life to someone’s generosity.”
Photo credit: Tim Marsden/Newspix