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July 22nd, 2011
07:09 AM ET

'Darth Vader's' mom: We focus on today

Editor's note: There’s something you might not know about the star of the year’s biggest television ad from the Super Bowl. Max is only 6 years old and he’s already had eight surgeries for his heart condition. This weekend, he gives Dr. Sanjay Gupta an inside look into his life and explains what he’s doing to help other sick kids. Watch "Sanjay Gupta M.D." at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

In this post,  Jennifer Page shares what being Max's mom has taught her. 

“Kiss your baby. He has to go to the NICU. We have found structural damage to his heart,” said the neonatologist. In a split second, life changed forever.

As they pulled him from my arms I sobbed, “I love you, Max,” over and over. My tears covered his sweet face. A new mom with a baby I couldn’t hold, a baby I couldn’t protect.

I remember my first visit to the NICU to reunite with Max. He was so small, lying in a scary-looking bed. Wires everywhere and a piercingly loud machine beeping. As the discussion swirled around his head about what was wrong with him, I bent to his ear and kept calling him “my perfect son."

He was mine and he was perfect. Somehow we were going to figure this out.

Max was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. At 3 months old he had his first life-saving heart surgery. A week later he had a pacemaker implanted. When he was 7 months old, we found out he had several spleens and required surgery for a malrotation of his intestines.

The first year of Max’s life was full of surprises. Medically, it seemed that one doctor visit led to two more referrals and four more appointments. He endured more painful tests, procedures and surgeries than I knew was possible. The surprises were relentless.

In turn, I put up emotional walls and felt numb most of the time, afraid it would hurt too much if I let my guard down.

But not Max! He was vibrant and strong. He knew from birth his role was to fight. He cried to get the nurses' attention, then warmed their hearts with his big blue eyes and soft hands.

Somehow, in all that he endured that first year, he never seemed like a sick baby. Alarms beeping every two hours for medicine reminders, chalkboard symptom charts and reams of insurance papers made it seem otherwise.

Focus was Max’s biggest lesson for me the first year. Focus on the task at hand. Focus on the moment instead of the past trauma or future fears. Focus on appreciating the miracle milestones that we routinely take for granted.

Focus on love. I love to listen to his sweet voice float through the air. I love the way he mumbles in his sleep. I love the way he stares into my eyes. I love that we hold hands when we are scared. I love the way the doctors mend him. I love that it is my job to heal him with love.

Focus on today. We have Max - today. He is here right now to be nurtured and enriched. He is here to be challenged and loved. He is here to laugh and sing. He is here to play golf with his family and climb in the park. He is here today and I know I am one of the lucky ones. I get to raise my perfect son.

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter

Watch Sanjay Gupta MD Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 7:30am ET. For the latest from Sanjay Gupta MD click here.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.