Still kickin hero: may 2016



This baby can do this. What is it you can’t do?
— Cassandra

The Willow tree is known for its strength. Under immense stress, it bends, but doesn’t break.

Willow’s parents knew before she was born that she would need that kind of strength, that the body she was born in would suffer under immense pressure, immense stress.

Willow has HLHS, or, if you’re into medical terminology, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It’s… not good. It’s basically being born with half a heart, and even if you’re not a doctor, you know that your heart is a vital organ and you need the whole damn thing.

She had her first heart surgery at two days old, and her mother and father watched her tiny body, cracked open in the center, and knew their girl was stronger than she looked, stronger than the both of them combined.

They were right. Her two and a half years on this earth have been filled with scares, from seizures to strokes, huge things that she shakes off and fights through, emerging a little girl who loves Kung Fu Panda and Happy Feet and playing with rocks.

I am not going to get into the statistics around HLHS because I know from experience that those numbers don’t help anything. Suffice it to say that HLHS babies don’t always grow up to he HLHS kids, and fewer still get to be HLHS adults. If they do, they have multiple heart surgeries, and eventually, a transplant.

While many of the HLHS babies they met along the way are no longer here, Willow is, and she’s a miracle through and through. She’s here, she’s Still Kickin, and she’s getting ready for her next surgery, the Fontan surgery where doctors will create a path for the oxygen-poor blood in one of the blood vessels that returns blood to the heart to flow directly into the pulmonary arteries. No, I don’t understand it, but I know that it’s big, and scary, and that Willow and her family will need to travel to Boston just for this.

It’s another big storm for her to weather, and like her namesake, we know she’s strong enough to do it.

Nora McInerny Purmort

Founder and CEO, Still Kickin, and the Still Kickin Board of Directors


Still Kickin is about building a more supportive world. Every month, money from each purchase will go to a designated Still Kickin Hero. We don’t all have brain tumors (phew) but we all have something to overcome.

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