The family of a Missoula teenager is raising money to help support the young boy’s open heart surgery scheduled for this summer.
Jeremiah Curtiss, 15, is a Hellgate High School student who was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect in mid-March at the Western Montana Clinic.
The family tested positive for COVID-19 in February and then had a series of doctor visits, said Jeremiah’s mother, Sylvia Curtiss. Jeremiah continued to experience fatigue, chest pain and other symptoms. After a few doctor visits, some electrocardiogram (ECG) tests and an ultrasound, a doctor gave Jeremiah his diagnosis.
“For the most part, I tried to stay strong for Jeremiah,” Sylvia said, but after receiving the news she remembered just laying her head on her daughter’s shoulder and sobbing.
“I told him, I don’t know how I’m going to get there (in Spokane) or what I’m going to do,” she said.
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An atrial septal defect is a birth defect in which there is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart.
The operation will take place at a surgery center in Spokane, Sylvia said. From start to finish, it will take about four to five days. Sylvia hopes the GoFundMe page can ensure the family has enough funds to cover travel costs, food and accommodation and any additional medical costs that may arise.
A family member of Jeremiah and Sylvia started the page after Sylvia said she was overwhelmed with all the expenses associated with the surgery.
Jeremiah was offered the option of another type of surgery, but Sylvia said this type has been known to send people back to the hospital time and time again. They chose to take the road with an open heart.
Sylvia says she will be limited in the operating room, but hopes to be with him until the anesthesia sets in. The operation itself will last at least two hours.
“I pray that God heals him and he doesn’t have to have surgery,” she said.
Jeremiah loves phone and video games and explores the outdoor sanctuary in their garden on the Clark Fork River. He missed more than a month of school due to illness, Sylvia said.
After some back and forth with school officials, the family coordinated to be part of Homebound, a Missoula County Public Schools program that allows homeschooling for health reasons. Once the forms are processed, a teacher will visit Jeremiah at home twice a week to help him keep up with his school work.
Sylvia and Jeremiah have lost many loved ones in their family over the past few years.
“It got really difficult, it was already too much,” said Sylvia.
To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/in-need-of-heart-surgery-Please-help.