(05/16/13) - She was just 19 when she found out her baby had a potentially deadly birth defect. Now, Debi Cherry is on a mission to help other mothers, and hopefully save more babies lives.
Every year, 36,000 babies are born with heart defects. Before her son was even born, the Flushing mother discovered her son would be one of them.
Still a teenager herself, Debi was already overwhelmed with the idea of becoming a new mom. Then, when her son, Scott, was born, his heart was actually backward, and the right side was under-developed.
"He's actually had four open heart surgeries. His first when he was three weeks old," Debi says.
The 11-year-old has come a long way, and says he loves to stay active, "I'll play any sport I'm able to."
He would love to play football and hockey, but Scott's lung capacity is limited. He has a pacemaker. So, Debi says, he sticks to golf, tennis and baseball, "and he is a great first basemen."
Scott got his first pacemaker at 18 months old, and a new one last summer, Debi adds, "he is doing great right now. They are hoping another eight years for his pacemaker. He just got a new one in August."
As her son grows stronger, Debi continues to fight harder, studying to be a cardiac tech and raising research funds for The American Heart Association.
By the time Scott was born in 2001, she says, researchers had dramatically improved the treatments that were first developed for his condition. "In 20 years, they have come a long way. His pacemakers that have changed out over the years, have every single time, the technology is so much better. "
Scott is not only helping with fundraising, he already has another plan - to make his life's work about giving back, "I wanna be a surgeon because my surgeon, he helps me a lot and he's really helped me a lot through my life and he's saved my life a lot."
This Saturday, Scott and his mother will be at the Genesee County Heart Walk, for the American Heart Association. Debi and Scott will walk with her co-workers from HealthPlus, to whom she says she will never be able to show her gratitude for their un-ending support.
Yes you can still sign up! The walk is Saturday, May 18 at the UM-Flint campus. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. in the pavilion and the walk will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Get your friends and family together today to form a team. Visit www.GeneseeCountyHeartWalk.org for more information.
To learn more about heart disease, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.
ABC12 Main Station