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Family finds friends when confronting child’s congenital heart defect

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Annual heart walk continues to touch Owen families

By John Whitlock

It was better than the biggest box of chocolates.
It was better than the most heartfelt Hallmark card.
On Mother’s Day 2013, Becky Mefford found out her son will live and have a shot at a normal life.
Nearly a year ago, Ezekiel Mefford, the son of Becky and Byron Mefford, underwent open-heart surgery to close a large hole in his heart.
“There was a very big hole and it would have been impossible to close without surgery,” Becky Mefford said. “It was a never-ending concern for us.”
Although Ezekiel had been born with the heart defect, it wasn’t detected until he was about 18-months old.
“We noticed something was wrong,” Becky Mefford said. “He was always tired, sleepy and he simply wasn’t growing.
His mother took Ezekiel to the hospital in Frankfort and there was talk of a heart murmur. The boy was sent to Lexington for more testing.
Becky Mefford received the news of the hole in her son’s heart as she was driving home.
“I didn’t have a clue at that point,” Becky Mefford said. “I was driving down the road and pulled over. I was in shock and called my husband.”
As the family began the difficult task of telling friends and family, they received some unexpected support from the leader of a community support network.
Becky Mefford said she was making phone calls when she received an email from Katie Columbia of God’s Special Little Hearts, a group of families who work to raise awareness and support for children suffering from congenital heart defects.
“I was still making calls to family when Katie contacted me,” Becky Mefford said. “She had heard from mutual friends about Ezekiel and wanted to help and to tell us that we weren’t alone. It was kind of amazing.”
With newfound support, the Mefford family began the process of finding solutions.
“We knew that he would have to have surgery,” Becky Mefford said. “We contacted Kosair’s in Louisville and they said it would be six to 12 months before surgery could be scheduled. We called Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and they were ready to go in two days.”
God’s Special Little Hearts was there for the Mefford family through the doctor appointments and hospital stays.
“We received so much support,” Becky Mefford said. “It was great to be able to talk to the other families and while we were in the hospital. They sent gas cards, food cards and care packages. It was a real blessing.”
Since the successful surgery, Ezekiel has turned a corner and his family is looking forward to a normal childhood.
“He is doing great,” Becky Mefford said. “He has gained six pounds and grown two inches since then.
But most importantly, Ezekiel has been cleared for two years and he is expected to have a full recovery.
“This is truly a miracle from God,” Becky Mefford said.
This Saturday, Becky, Bryon, Ezekiel, Malachi, 7, and Judah, 5, will take part in the ninth annual Walk for CHD Awareness at the Owenton First Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  God’s Special Little Hearts and the Owen County Homemakers Club sponsor the event.
“They had been through it and they knew exactly what to do,” Becky Mefford said. “It’s a very good cause and my family is so happy to be part of it.”
If you would like more information on the Walk for CHD Awareness, make a donation, sell hearts in your store or to form a fund-raising team, contact Columbia at 514-1305, Meg Fitzgerald at 859-620-0289 or Kenda Franks at 502-316-3024.
The Owen County schools will be participating in the “Change for CHDs” fund drive again this year from Feb. 3 through 14. Students from these schools will be asked to bring in their loose change during the drive. There will be a class from each school that will win a pizza party.
At this year’s walk, there will be a silent auction with donated items from local businesses and individuals, along with several tickets to Kentucky parks, Newport Aquarium and other entertainment venues.
The major ticket item this year is round trip tickets for two to anywhere in the United States via Southwest Airlines.  You do not have to be at the walk at the end of the auction to win.  The auction will begin at 11 a.m.  and end at 4:30 p..m. with winners announced shortly after.
The walk is open to the public. You do not have to be on a team to come and enjoy the entertainment and food and help us raise awareness of congenital heart defects.
The walk is sponsored by God’s Special Little Hearts and the Owen County Extension Homemakers and benefits God’s Special Little Hearts, a local non-profit organization set up to help families that are affected by CHDs.

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God’s Special Little Hearts sends out care packages to families who have a child in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery or other heart-related illness.
They also help those families with fuel costs that they incur while driving to and from the hospital, help with the hotel costs if the Ronald McDonald House is full and has also helped with bus fare for families that don’t have their own transportation.