Alex Forss looks like so many other children his age who live in Abington and play at the playground. He travels with an entourage of Curious Georges — Little George, Medium George, Big George and Wing George — as he has named them. He plays with puzzles and loves to watch “The Wizard of Oz.” Maybe that’s why he loves monkeys so much.
But beneath his shirt, his chest bares a tell-tale sign of him not being just like any other toddler.
His little scars tell the story of a medical past that most adults can’t imagine. Alex is about to undergo his third open heart surgery. He was born June 12, 2009 with Tricuspid Atresia, a type of congenital heart disease.
Within the first three weeks of life, Alex went into full-blown congestive heart failure and doctors performed an emergency open-heart surgery when he was 27 days old. His second open-heart surgery was just months later. He has had many other procedures, a surgery not related to his heart, and four heart catheterization surgeries.
Alex will undergo his third open-heart surgery, called the Fontan, later this month.
The Forss family lives in Abington, but spends much of its time at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“One of the toughest things we had to accept quickly was that Alex requires a lot of extra attention. We get very upset when we feel as though we haven’t or aren’t there for our daughter, Evelyn,” his mother Colleen said.
Their oldest child, Evelyn, is 4-years old.
Being the parents of a child with congenital heart disease has forever changed the lives of the entire family, although Forss said she strives to keep life as normal as possible.
“We do not take anything for granted, and every moment with Alex and everything Alex says or does is a miracle. A saying that we’ve come to know so well is ‘Take it one day at a time.’ This is the best advice we can give to anyone who is facing adversity in life. If you look too far in the future, you miss what is right in front of you,” Colleen said.
Even in adversity, the family has found humor.
“I would have to say that Alex made us laugh as soon as I gave birth to him,” she said.
Doctors told them to expect a six-pound baby, but Alex weighed more than 10.
“After he was taken to the NICU, we were told that word spread quickly of people talking about ‘the 10 pounder’ in the NICU,” she said.
Forss said she wants to thank all her friends for organizing the benefit and for daily support.
“Through all of this, our family and friends came together and took care of Evelyn for us so we could be there for Alex. We owe so much to everyone for getting us through the past several years and will continue for years to come,” she said.
To help with the expense of the upcoming surgery, their friends have organized a beef and beer.
“Although they have medical insurance, it just doesn’t cover everything. We’re hoping to raise money to support them,” said Beth Kerr, and friend of the family.
The benefit will be Saturday, May 5 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the North Penn VFW 676 hall in Glenside. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
For more information on the event, call 267-408-5002 or email Kerr at email@example.com.