Cedar Rapids youngster battling rare heart condition

Fundraiser is Saturday for 9-month-old Carter Ballew

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CEDAR RAPIDS — At nine months old, Carter Ballew is battling a heart defect that affects about two out of every 10,000 babies.

He has two holes in his heart, a condition known as Atrial Ventricular Septal Defect.

“The atrial ventricular septum is the very center of the heart and his is missing,” explained Dr. Mark Zittergruen, a pediatric cardiologist at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. “The very center of his heart didn’t form well so it leaves him with holes between the top two chambers and holes between the bottom two chambers.”

Fixing the problem requires open heart surgery and Carter is scheduled for his on June 1 at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“He’s going to continue to make slow progress but he will make much better progress once his holes are closed and once his valve is fixed,” said Zittergruen.

Eric and Hayley Ballew, of Cedar Rapids, learned about their son’s condition after he was born.

“We found out when he was two weeks old,” said Hayley Ballew, remembering a call with a doctor. “All I heard was there were two holes and my mind was just fixated on the fact that there was something wrong with my baby and it was his heart and it was abnormal. I didn’t hear much else of what she said the rest of the call.”

Zittergruen explained that the biggest clinical problems regarding Carter’s condition are that breathing is difficult and babies struggle to grow and gain weight.

“He works so hard to breathe that he has issues gaining weight, he also has issues eating because it’s hard to drink, eat and breathe at the same time,” added Hayley Ballew.

Although Carter has his ups and downs and makes frequent visits to see doctors, she describes him as “patient.”

“And for everything that he goes through, he is one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met,” she said.

The Ballew family has faced many trials throughout the process of trying to get Carter healthy.

“It’s been tough,” said Eric Ballew, who works for GoDaddy and has health insurance for the family through the company. “I want to be there as much as possible but when I’m the only one in the family working, it’s also my requirement to make the money in order to afford the bills.” He said his company has allowed him to take time off to attend to Carter’s needs. “Right now, it’s unpaid but it’s protecting my job, which is the most important thing.”

Even with insurance, the family is facing mounting medical bills.

Friends and family members have planned a fundraiser from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at LaSalle Middle School, 3700 First Ave. NW in Cedar Rapids. It features a silent auction, raffle, corn hole tournament, free food and drinks, face painting, a bounce house, cake walk and other carnival games.

“It was amazing. When they reached out it was pretty awesome just to know that people out there ... wanna do good things for you and help out,” said Eric Ballew.

“No words can really describe it. The main thing that does come to mind is, ‘Thank you,’ ” added Hayley Ballew. “I cannot say thank you enough to these people, to our friends and to our family.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8538; elianna.novitch@thegazette.com

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