Cross-country trip for kids with heart defects

July 19, 2010 3:35:37 PM PDT
Little Camden Cheshire of Newtown Square may only be 5 years old, but he knows more about heart defects that most adults.

He's particularly well versed in a specific form of it.

"Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return," Cheshire said, expertly citing the form defect he was born with.

It's also why 27-year-old Nels Matson stopped in Delaware County this morning to meet this young man.

Nels, who's on the final leg of a cross-country bike ride from California to New York City, was born with the same condition as Camden.

He embarked on a 2,000 mile trek several weeks ago to raise money and awareness about children's heart defects, and to show that with surgery and medication, some children born with these pulmonary disorders can end up leading normal lives.

But Nels is the first to say the fact that he was diagnosed moments after birth was the key to his survival.

"I had three of the four pulmonary veins going into the wrong side of my heart. I had a hole in my heart also, which has been patched up," Nels said.

Nels and Camden are the exception, though. Most children born with heart defects face the prospect of surgery after surgery along with a host of medications. Still, many never even make it to their first birthday. In fact, Camden's parents say Nels is the first person they ever met who was born with the same condition as their son.

They said just meeting him is an inspiration.

"He has given a voice to the babies and the children that we've had to say good-bye to, and brought a lot of awareness to our children that we all love and care about," said Camden's mother, Patty.

If you would like to learn more about Nels Matson's cross country journey, or if you would like to make a donation, visit the Children's Heart Foundation website.

RELATED LINK: Children's Heart Foundation