KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pressure was on for the Royals Wednesday night– but the team has a special little super-fan also putting up a fight. As the team prepared for ALDS Game 5, hoping to knock out the Astros, three-year-old Gabriel was knocking out his third open heart surgery.
“I knew his surgery would be this day, and when they won the other night, and I knew their game would be Wednesday, I was like, that`s pretty frigging awesome,” said Vanessa Walker, Gabriel’s mom.
Almost three years ago, at Walker’s doctors visit at 20 weeks, an ultrasound was done to find out sex of her baby. But doctors found more than that.
“They detected a single ventricle,” added Walker.
A single ventricle is a congenital heart defect due to abnormal development of the fetal heart. A series of operations are necessary to correct it.
“At five days old, he had his first open heart surgery,” she said.
Gabriel was born at Children’s Mercy hospital. He was 76 days old before he came home, and had a second open heart surgery almost three weeks later.
“With his heart condition, there`s three surgeries that are required for these children to make it to adulthood, and this is the final one in those stages,” Walker said.
Through all the tough times, Walker says her son has been strong and tough.
“He`s a fighter,” Walker added, “He doesn’t give up, he`s resilient, when you think he`s down and out, he just comes back.”
Sound familiar? Gabriel loves baseball and the Royals.
“You know, the underdogs, the little ones,” said Walker.
Just like the Royals, he too has been fighting for the best outcome.
“From day one, he had to have ESPN Sports Center on in his room, no cartoons, he didn’t want to watch cartoons…the only thing that could calm him, was to have the noise of sports in the background,” Walker said.
Gabriel doesn’t leave the house without his ball cap.
“He loves going to the games, loves watching on TV, everything is a bat that he picks up,” his mom said.
Whether it’s surgery or baseball, Walker says in life things can change so quickly — and having the mindset that you can “knock it out of the park” is what keeps everyone going when the pressure is on.
Gabriel is recovering at Children’s Mercy where doctors were able to repair his arch, but couldn’t complete the operation on fontan because he’s too small. Doctors say it’s okay because he’ll have time to grow and will operate on his fontan this coming spring.
For more information about his condition, click on this link.