Boy born with half a heart shows lots of love


His parents named him Maceo.

"It means gift from God in Italian," said his mother, Monique Esparza.

But at birth, he earned another.

"I literally got to look at him for two seconds and they went running with him. He was blue," said Esparza. "So we named him Maceo Bleu.

Maceo was born with half a heart, a condition called tricuspid atresia. He was missing a major heart valve and his entire right ventricle. A child with the same diagnosis will usually have three to five surgeries; Maceo has had 13.

"There can be many complications that happen after that and Maceo did have a very, very rocky course after his first surgeries," said Dr. Cheryl Takao with Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Esparza says there was one point when doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do medically for Maceo and that it was on his time now. But Maceo, who is now 6 years old, says his heart spoke to him.

"The heart just said fight, so I fighted (sic) and I lived," said Maceo.

Doctors at Children's Hospital L.A. reconstructed Maceo's missing valve and created a new artery using a blood vessel from his right arm. Later, they realized his heart wasn't beating fast enough to supply blood to his body, so surgeons installed a pacemaker. The procedure, he says, makes him feel like his favorite superhero, "Iron Man."

"They put me back together. I realized I had a big scar right here," Maceo said, pointing to his chest.

And like most superheroes, he's dealt with many close calls, including a recent bout with the flu.

"They said that he wouldn't live, that he wouldn't wake up, and for us to come and say our goodbyes to him. He woke up three days later," said Esparza.

Another example of Maceo's regenerative powers: he was born without any bone in his thumb. Doctors said he would never be able to move it. But he was determined to play video games, so by some miracle, he was able to grow bone there. Doctors have no explanation for that.

"He's very resilient and tough and proved so many times that he can overcome so many serious complications," said Takao.

Maceo's doctors say he never misses an opportunity to show you how much he cares.

"He always runs up and gives me a hug. He always has the biggest smile," said Takao.

Maceo says, "Love is just the answer. Nothing else. Just love."

Love can make a half-heart feel whole. For Maceo, loving life also means having gratitude for each and every day.

"I love my family, and I hope I can live a long time so this day can keep going on," he said.

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