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Close Up: Healing Hearts

The Jayden DeLuca Foundation works to raise funds and provide comfort for those affected by pediatric heart conditions.

By Emily Fonnesbeck
Photography by Copper Chadwick and Courtesy of the DeLuca Family

On June 5th, 2004, Jayden Riley DeLuca was born to Karalie and Jermey DeLuca. Although she was small her spirit was strong and, since her passing in February 2007, her name and memory has lived on through the Jayden DeLuca Foundation; an organization founded with “the goal of helping other children and their families fight cardiac diseases and offer support and encouragement to all those affected by pediatric heart conditions.”

At 20 weeks in utero, Jayden’s parents were told that there was a problem with Jayden’s heart. Jayden was born with what was categorized as a Single Ventricle Defect, meaning her heart could not effectively pump blood to be oxygenated and circulated throughout her body. At just four days old, Jayden was transported to Portland, where she underwent her first open-heart surgery at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Children’s Hospital. From there, Jayden underwent another heart surgery at OHSU at nine months of age, and even more surgeries and procedures in Boise throughout her short life.

Jayden was a fighter with a very quiet and sweet personality. She loved her family and her dogs, and was as active as her heart condition would allow. Aside from surgeries and checkups, she wasn’t in the hospital and usually came home earlier than expected after a procedure. Not all children born with a congenital heart defect is so lucky.

Around 40,000 babies are born each year with a congenital heart defect (CHD). According to the American Heart Association, “Congenital heart defects are structural problems arising from abnormal formation of the heart or major blood vessels. At least 18 distinct types of congenital heart defects are recognized, with many additional anatomic variations.”

Babies born with a CHD struggle to live through those first surgeries and procedures, and research at this time is critical. Today, the chances are better than ever that a defect can be treated and the patient will go on to lead a normal healthy adult life. Diagnosis and treatment continue to advance, and doctors are treating conditions once thought to be hopeless.

After Jayden’s passing, Jayden’s father Jeremy, along with his brother Ryan (of bodybuilding.com), decided to create the Jayden DeLuca Foundation in her honor, and in an effort to promote awareness of the condition and ease the heartache that those affected by pediatric heart disease. The foundation also donates money to research, to various hospitals, and works closely with the American Heart Association to raise awareness of CHD and other cardiac conditions.

Although the organization is growing, the Jayden DeLuca Foundation is known for paying attention to the small things that make all the difference. Recently, a child had surgery in Denver but needed to be transported back to the family’s home in Idaho. When the insurance company denied oxygen during transport, the Jayden DeLuca Foundation stepped in.

In an effort to raise money for its efforts, the foundation holds a variety of fundraisers, including an annual masquerade ball, golf tournaments and, new this year, a 5k Race for Hearts. The Foundation is part of The Idaho Steelheads Charity night where players wear custom JDF jerseys and then auction them off to fans at the end of the evening. In addition to its events, the Jayden DeLuca Foundation has worked with Bodybuilding.com, On the Spot Cleaners, Cheerleaders, J.J. Auto Sales, and The Human Bean and hopes to grow partnerships with other local companies as well in an effort to further awareness of the Foundation, as well as CHD.

A foundation like the Jayden DeLuca Foundation is important in helping those lucky enough to not be affected by illness to remember that there are real faces and real families suffering from conditions such as CHD. Jayden DeLuca was far more than a CHD patient; she was a champion, and her parent’s sweet baby girl. With help and support it is possible to save babies born with congenital heart defects and honor the memory of Jayden.

To learn about upcoming events or ways to donate, visit www.jaydendelucafoundation.org.