Zach's Bar Mitzvah Project -- Providing Life-Saving Cardiac Care to African Children!

A personal campaign sponsored by Zachary Blumenfeld

September 10, 2016

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             Zach's Bar Mitzvah Project

The Zachary Blumenfeld Fund

Hi,

Thanks for visiting my very own portal.  Here you can read about, and if you’d like, donate to the Zachary Blumenfeld Fund.  I designed the logo myself.  Pretty cool, huh?   

My family established the Fund to give back to Children’s National Medical Center’s Cardiology Department for saving my life when I was born.  I was really sick because I had life-threatening congenital heart disease.

The Fund helps cardiac kids from Africa get the help they need but cannot afford.  Children’s cardiologists used to do all the procedures themselves but now, because they’ve been teaching the local pediatric cardiologists how to fix the kids, the local doctors are becoming self-sufficient.  We also helped build a cardiac center so that the doctors had a proper place to perform the surgeries and other procedures. 

I got involved myself after I had super successful open heart surgery when I was nine -- I was out of the hospital in four days, back in school in two weeks and playing baseball in a month!!  And, that first day out on the baseball field was amazing!  Two Ugandan children who just had procedures came out with Children’s cardiologists to see me and my team play.  The kids had never seen baseball before!  Both Little League teams held a nice ceremony and gave the children baseball gear.  And fortunately, I didn’t strike out! 

So, that’s it in a nut shell.  The doctors’ saved my life and we want to help save other cardiac children’s lives.  I am really proud to be helping these kids live a full life—without help, they would die!!  So, I think it is an important cause and that's why I chose it for my Bar Mitzvah project.

Anyway, thanks for reading this far and if you do donate, please know that I, along with my family, really appreciates your support!!

Sincerely,

Zach

P.S.  My mom and dad have written the full story below if you are interested. 

                                    *          *          *          *          *

Our son, Zachary Asher Blumenfeld, was born in 2003 with a series of complicated heart problems, each of which were serious in and of themselves, but put together, were so rare and of such high risk that several times during his first six weeks of life, he had to be resuscitated.   

Within an hour of his birth, he was rushed to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC under the care of their excellent pediatric cardiology team.  He was diagnosed with Epstein’s Anomaly (a defective tricuspid value), Atrial Septal Defect (a hole between the two chambers of the heart) and most ominously, Pulmonary Atresia, which meant that his pulmonary valve was sealed shut and no blood from his heart could reach the lungs to be oxygenated. Zachary could only send blood to his lungs via the  “PDA,” a valve that is open while the baby is in-utero and then closes after birth.  The only way the cardiologists could prevent the PDA from closing was to use a strong drug called prostaglandin.  However, this was only a stop-gap measure; it was not a solution. Zachary was placed on a heart transplant list and all expectations were that he would have open heart by-pass surgery in a risky effort to attempt to normalize his cardiac blood flow.    

First, Zachary underwent two cardiac catheterizations in order to open his pulmonary valve using a laser. This was only the second time a laser had been used for this procedure in the United States.  While Dr. Slack successfully opened the valve, Zachary’s blood was still not getting enough oxygen and he was literally turning blue.  He was placed on paralysis medicines to prevent him from moving in order to protect his weak little heart from stress. 

As such, we proceeded with plans for heart surgery.  The morning of the scheduled surgery we arrived at the hospital and waited for the surgery to begin.  And waited.  Eventually, the surgeon came out to tell us that Zachary had made his own choice.  Our tough little guy had decided that the catheterizations would do the trick and that he didn’t need the surgery after all.  The cardiac team dubbed him “the miracle baby.”   Zachary’s miracle has been retold in the Children’s Hospital annual report as well as in The Washington Post. 

Zach had another catheterization before he started Kindergarten and when he was nine-years-old, open heart surgery to replace his pulmonary valve, which was no longer functioning.  We originally planned to have the surgery during the summer so he wouldn’t miss school but when he heard he needed it, he said “I want to do it now.  The doctors fixed me before; they will fix me again.  I want to play baseball.”  He was calmer about the procedure then his parents were!!  Needless to say, Zachary was correct – Dr. Jonas, the leading pediatric cardiac surgeon in the world did a great job!  Zach was out of the hospital in four days and back in school in two weeks.  And, he was back to baseball in a month!

Today, Zachary is a happy, high energy thirteen-year-old with a tremendous sense of humor and zest for life.  He and his sixteen-year-old brother Sam are very close.  You would never know by watching him play that he ever had any cardiac issues and that his heart still has serious defects…defects, yes, but no longer life-threatening or even significantly threatening the quality of his active life.

Most of all, we are so grateful to Children’s for the Mitzvah of life they gave to Zachary and to other kids every day so they can celebrate specials days in their lives…just like Zach being able to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah with all of you!  Zach is so glad to be able to give a Mitzvah back to the kids in Africa and we all thank you for your interest in learning more!

 

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