ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) – Ten thousand dollars is a generous donation to the medical field no matter who it comes from. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic say it meant a little more, however, when they found out the donor was a 14-year-old boy about to go through open heart surgery.
Despite Jack Long’s heart defect, he’s grown up to become an avid soccer, basketball and baseball player. And it’s actually, in part, because of new sports guidelines for kids with congenital heart defects that Jack decided to get heart valve repair surgery.
Jack’s father, Michael Long, says timing is crucial when it comes to the surgery.
“The longer you wait, there’s potential for damage to be done,” Long said.
So, not only did Jack agree to having open heart surgery at age 14, he also took on something that’s difficult for most adults.
“For a 14 year old, he’s all of a sudden, it’s like he’s 30,” he said.
Weeks after his first consultation with the doctors at Mayo, Jack came up with an idea with the help of his teacher and classmates. They created the slogan “Live Long, Beat Strong.” And just days later, Jack was selling t-shirts and wrist bands out of his locker – and walking home with cash for donations for other children at the Mayo Clinic.
Jack’s pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Ben Eidem, says his patient’s financial goal was quickly surpassed.
“His initial one was $1,000 – but he did 10-times better than that. He’s actually now raised $10,000,” Eidem said.
The fundraising occurred in the midst of the devastation and rebuilding on the East Coast due to Hurricane Sandy.
“We live in the heart of New Jersey; we’re eight blocks to the Atlantic Ocean. And all our neighborhood, the community, I think 60 percent of the homes were affected by the hurricane,” Long said.
Dr. Eidem says he hopes Jack will never forget his legacy of generosity.
“It’s been a wonderful story. It’s been very gratifying for us. But I think most importantly, this is hopefully something Jack will remember for a long time of what he’s done to help people,” said Eidem.
Doctors say they expect Jack to make a full recovery.
In honor of Jack’s efforts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie named the week of Feb. 4-7 “Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.”
If you’d like to donate to Jack’s campaign, click here.