When Hunter and Lauren-Frances Wood were born five-weeks early in 1998, she was the first born, small and healthy. But Hunter had to get immediate attention from doctors.  He had a heart murmur and his pulse oximetry levels were low.

A cardiologist informed Hunter’s mother that he was born with a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis with a bicuspid valve. This diagnosis meant that his aorta was abnormally narrow and he had two valves instead of three.

Echocardiogram results then indicated that Hunter would have to undergo heart surgery one day in the future.

Hunter’s mother decided to let him determine his own limitations.  So, he participated in baseball, basketball and even soccer until he realized that his energy was not at the level needed for those sports.  However, determined to stay active, Hunter found a different sport – tennis.

Surgery finally came when Hunter felt changes. After monitoring for a few days, he was told that his heart was enlarged and he had a severe aneurysm in his aorta.

Since, his surgery, he feels better.

“A lot better,” said Hunter.  “I don’t tire out as quickly as I used to.”

His determination and perseverance helped him not only go back to school, but also back to the tennis courts.

“Honestly, I had no idea before all this what all the American Heart Association did and provided,” said Gina Pope, Hunter’s mother about how the organization funds research.  “The technology has come so far and I just didn’t realize until now how amazing the American Heart Association is. I’m thankful because it kept my baby boy alive.”

Hunter is Why. Life is Why.