When Logan LaFever was born last Oct. 30, he faced long odds.
"He was born with quite a few different congenital heart defects," said his father, Glen.
Glen and his wife, Kristen, had plans in place.
"He was going to be flown right away to Duke but he was born during Hurricane Sandy," LaFever said. So instead, an ambulance transported him. Surgeons successfully performed an operation that newborns with CHD must have to survive.
"He made it through that real well," LaFever said. "You worry because these babies are so young and so fragile. His heart was really good but his kidney ended up failing and he died of respiratory failure."
Glen and Kristen don't want Logan's 17-day life to be in vain. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting eight out of every 1,000 newborns. Each year, more than 35,000 babies in the United States are born with congenital heart defects. Many of them defects are simple conditions, the National Institutes of Health.
But some babies, like Logan, are born with a serious defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome that requires three delicate surgeries to essentially reroute the work of the heart from the side that does not function to the one that does. Babies need the surgery at birth, at six months and between 2 and 3 years old.
'Receptions for Research'
The LaFevers have taken on the baby heart defect as a mission, and they've joined forces with a like-minded NFL star to bring a golf tournament fundraiser to Etowah in June.
"I'm a huge Carolina Panthers fan to begin with," LaFever said. The Panther tight end "has been one of my heroes before any of this even happened."
LaFever read a news story about Greg Olsen that hit home. The football player and his wife, Kara, had had twins. One was fine and the other had the same congenital heart defect as Logan. Olsen, who had started a foundation in 2009 in honor of his mother to fight breast cancer, started another one to fight CHDs. LaFever sent an email to the foundation.
"I just want to let you know that one of your followers is with you," he said, describing what he wrote. "You're going to be going through the same kind of stuff I am and it gives me hope that I'm not alone."
LaFever wasn't sure that anything would come of it.
Olsen's brother, Chris, who handles the foundation work from Chicago, called LaFever. The Olsen family followed Logan's progress.
"When we came home from losing Logan they catered food to our house," LaFever said. "They brought us down to meet them at football games."
Medical bills are huge
LaFever, a 2003 West Henderson High School graduate, and Kristen, a 2006 WHHS graduate, have two other children, Hannah, 6, and Aidan, 5.
Olsen will be playing in the Logan's Heart Golf Tournament in June.
His son T.J. had surgery at the Levine's Children's Hospital in Charlotte.
"We spoke to numerous doctors and met with doctors in Boston and everywhere we turned they said Dr. (Benjamin) Peeler (at Levine) was the best," he said. "That was a big relief that we could stay right here in town and get world-class health care."
T.J. came home a month after successful surgery. The survival rate is up to 70 percent for children that have the three-part surgery.
"He's home right now living a pretty normal baby life," Olsen said. "We don't take him out places because we have to be careful. For the most part he's completely normal. He hangs out with us."
Olsen founded "The HEARTest Yard" to fund research and care for babies born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He gladly signed on to boost LaFever's event, called Logan's Heart Golf Tournament.
"We obviously share a passion to help these babies out," Olsen said. "The No. 1 thing is to try to raise money for doctors and hospitals and researchers and try to get better care."
Most families can't pay for a fulltime nurse, which the Olsens have for T.J.
"It's a hard thing for their family and we're very sympathetic to that. That very well could have been us," he said. "The bills that we have received are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We're fortunate that we have good health care but not everyone does."
The charity golf tournament will be held at Cummings Cove Golf and Country Club on June 8.
"We've got 27 teams available. We've got about 70 sponsorship spots still open, from $50 to 2-grand. I formatted the tournament in a way that anybody could sponsor. Our first year we have a $20,000 goal."
The cost to play in the captain's choice format event is $360 for a foursome, which covers green fee and cart, lunch and dinner, and a chance to meet Olsen.
For more information or to sign up to play or sponsor, call Glen LaFever (828) 243-1976.
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