The Local Heart Foundation helps Lake Area families dealing with heart-related illnesses

The Local Heart Foundation helps Lake Area families dealing with heart-related illnesses

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Daniel is just like any other 4-year-old boy.

He loves toys, cars, trains, and especially his sister.

“He’s sweet, very active. Sometimes, when he doesn’t get his way, he’s a grouch," said Madyson, Daniel’s older sister.

There’s one thing that’s different about Daniel.

“One day, we were at the park and we were over at the Civic Center, by the ship, and he was so excited to get in the ship. And once we started going through it, very quickly, he became too tired to do it," Daniel Sr., Daniel’s father said.

That’s because Daniel was born with half of a heart.

“Daniel is a special kid. He was born with a condition called Tricuspid Valve Atresia. It’s one of the more common complex heart diseases; common meaning, maybe like one in 10,000 common," Dr. Rubee Gugol said, a pediatric cardiologist.

At just three days old, Daniel had his first open heart surgery.

That’s when they discovered his condition is even more complex. And now, at four years old, he’s had three surgeries, with at least one more on the way.

“The main thing that we have right now is he has Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and that complicates his condition exponentially," Gugol said.

That means the heart that he has also grows thick and unhealthy tissue rapidly, which has to be regularly shaved down.

Dealing with all of this is enough to put a strain on anyone, but especially on Daniel’s family because they have to go to Houston for all of Daniel’s treatments.

“It’s so unique. It’s unheard of. There’s no literature about this yet. And with Texas Children’s being the number one hospital in the U.S. right now, they are capable of providing that extra level of expertise," Guglo said.

That means gas for the drive, hotel stays, food, and long breaks from work.

That’s where the Local Heart Foundation steps in.

“Fortunately enough, through the foundation, it was all the responsibility that didn’t go directly into dealing with your child at the hospital. They removed all of that," Daniel Sr. said "I said, ‘even from food to gas?’ It was totally a blessing.”

Tim Andres is the co-founder of the foundation. He became passionate about the mission after he had a heart attack at 36 years old and saw first-hand the burden that can create.

“Maybe they did take all their vacation, but they might be in the hospital for a month. How are they going to pay the house note, and the car note, and the insurance and the electricity bills? So, those are things we step in and do," Andres said.

He said hearing stories like Daniel’s and knowing they get to play a part in helping them is what keeps him going.

“It’s truly amazing. And we’re not doing enough," Tim said. "There’s so many in our community who need this and we just need to get the word out. It’s great to see someone helped and we cherish that. It becomes more than a foundation. It becomes family.”

That allows families like Daniel’s to focus on what truly matters.

“I see him every day and he smiles and he just makes the world go ‘round. And God is good," Alicia, Daniel’s mom said.

If you’re interested in getting help from the foundation, your local cardiologist can submit your case to their board of directors.

Their next fundraiser is A Night in Rio on Mar. 16.

For more information, you can call them at 337-419-0033.

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