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Young heart 'hero' Connor a marvel to his family

Young heart 'hero' Connor a marvel to his family

'He's always smiling, always laughing'
Young heart 'hero' Connor a marvel to his family
Matthew and Courtney Connor Daddario of Niskayuna with Maddie and Connor.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Connor Daddario is like plenty of other little boys.

He runs around the house. Basketball and football on television have become early fascinations. He loves hanging out with sister Maddie, 3. And the family dog — Lulu — is a close ally.

Connor has something else, something other children will never receive. A chest scar proves Connor — a blond-haired, blue-eyed child who turns 2 on July 1 — has experienced open heart surgery.

Niskayuna resident Courtney Connor Daddario was 23 weeks pregnant when she learned her baby would be born with a congenital heart defect, a condition called atrioventricular septal defect. Abbreviated AVSP, the defect involves the valves between the heart's upper and lower chambers and the walls between the chambers. In Connor's case, there were holes in his heart.

Daddario's doctor at the time told her the baby would have only a 50-50 chance of survival. She found the news numbing, and was not happy with the doctor's blunt assessment.

A visit to a pediatric cardiologist proved a better experience. This doctor provided better statistics and said that while the problem was serious, the condition would be both manageable and operable.

Connor was born July 1, 2016, at Bellevue Woman's Center. Cardiothoracic surgeons — who specialize in conditions found in the heart and lungs — were standing by in case they were needed.

The birth went fine. Doctors anticipated they would perform surgery on the infant at 3 months. That date was postponed.

"They said they wanted him to gain a little bit more weight and that his heart was still balanced, which was always the key term for him," said Daddario, 36, sharing her family story during last week's Congential Heart Disease Awareness Week. "At 6 months, they checked him again and he was still looking good."

021218HeartDEFECTdaddario99.jpg

Doctors wanted Connor a bit plumper before the operation. The boy gained extra weight and the operation to repair his heart took place on July 13, 2017 — 12 days after his first birthday.

"What Connor has is a series of holes in his heart, within the four chambers," Daddario said. "When they went in, they were able to fix the larger of the holes but he still has a lot of really small holes which are about the size of a pinhead.

"The hope is they close on their own," Daddario added, "and other surgeries are not needed."

Connor didn't spend much time in the hospital.

"He had the surgery on a Thursday; he was home on Sunday and crawling around the house on Monday," Daddario added. "He's our little heart hero, he's amazing to us."

Parental anguish and worry were early parts of Connor's health situation. But now Daddario and her husband, Matthew, say Connor has no restrictions. He can run around the house, roughhouse on the floor with his cousins, tumble off the couch. He's not going to break.

Courtney Daddario said the only thing the family has to worry about is Connor catching a cold. Children with heart defects, Daddario said, have weakened immune systems. The technical term is "immunocompromised."

"To get a simple cold isn't so simple to someone like him," Daddario said. "You always have that thought in the back of your mind — what if he gets sick?"

The Daddarios have not taken any chances. Connor was admitted to Albany Medical Center last winter, just as a precaution during the cold season.

Daddario said lifestyle changes have been part of the family's life over the past two years. She had to leave her job as a teacher's assistant at Niskayuna High School because she stays home with her son now; Connor could never go to a day care center because he could catch a cold from another child.

There is help and hope for other parents whose unborn children will live with heart defects. Communication is important.

"Talk to somebody who's been through it; contact the American Heart Association," said Daddario, who now works at Mario's restaurant in Niskayuna. "Get in touch with someone who can talk you through it and just stay positive. It was hard, you had your dark days, but in the end you have a healthy baby."

Connor is healthy. The Daddarios say their son knows the scar on his chest means something.

"He knows he has a 'boo-boo,'" said Matthew Daddario, a technician with Spectrum cable. "He'll point to the scar. He doesn't know what happened but he knows he has a scar."

The Daddarios know that while Connor has no limitations, he will be under a cardiologist's care for the rest of his life. But life is a good word.

"He has a zest for life," Courtney Daddario said. "He's always smiling, always laughing, anything sports related he loves, he loves doing everything his sister does and he's obsessed with our dog."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected].

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