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Copley family to raise awareness at Heart Walk

9/10/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Gavin Hottovy
Photo courtesy of the American Heart Association
COPLEY — For one local family, the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Start! Heart Walk is a mission.

“We hope to raise awareness for CHDs [congenital heart defects] because most people, if you say CHD, they don’t know what that is,” said Becky Hottovy, of Copley. “One out of 100 babies in the country is born with CHD. If you look at so many things, there is so much more awareness.”

Hottovy and her husband, Tim, are the parents of 5-year-old Gavin, whose heart defect was detected at his mother’s 20-week ultrasound. Doctors discovered he had double inlet left ventricle with looped transposition of the great arteries and tricuspid atresia. Without surgery or a heart transplant, the Hottovys were told their son would not make it. They opted for surgery.

The couple, also parents to Luke, who was 2 at the time, lived in Des Moines, Iowa. They were referred to Dr. Edward Bove, a renowned surgeon at the University of Michigan, where they went for Gavin’s birth and subsequent surgery. 

Gavin was born April 2, 2004, and was so ill that his parents were unable to see him for many hours. At 6 days old, Gavin had his first surgery and was hooked up to a temporary pacemaker.

More than a month later, mother and baby were finally able to return home. Just a few months later, when Gavin was 4 months old, they had to return for another open-heart surgery in which a pacemaker was implanted.

Gavin had surgery again at 2, but since then the only procedure he has had to have is the removal of a feeding tube, Hottovy said. The family also had a third son, Ethan, who was born when Gavin was 2.

Today, Gavin is on medication and has some limitations.

“He cannot get hit in the chest because of his pacemaker,” Hottovy said. That means he cannot play contact sports and also cannot ride any theme park rides that include a bar that comes across his chest.

Big brother Luke makes sure Gavin is safe, Hottovy said.

“If he’s playing with neighborhood boys in the yard, Luke will say ‘You can’t hit Gavin in the chest,’” she said.

The youngster seems to know what he can and can’t do even though he doesn’t really talk about his health issues.

“It’s not something that defines him,” his mother said.

The Hottovys moved to the Akron area in January 2008. Today Gavin sees local doctors Dr. John Clark and Dr. Mark Jacobstein.

The family participated in the Start! Heart Walk in Des Moines before, but this year’s walk, on Oct. 17, is the first time they are participating in Akron. The family is part of a team through Veyance Technologies, Tim Hottovy’s employer.

“Some of our family is flying in from Nebraska, and we say it’s a big party to celebrate Gavin’s heart,” Hottovy said. “He wants to have ice cream.”

The Start! Heart Walk will take place Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Louis and Freda Stile Athletic Field House on The University of Akron campus. It is free to participate, but those who raise at least $100 will receive a Heart Walk T-shirt.

Funds raised will support heart disease and stroke research and educational programs. According to the AHA, research has yielded important discoveries such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgery and surgical techniques to repair heart defects.

Donations to Gavin’s team can be forwarded to the AHA at 3505 Embassy Parkway, Suite 100, Akron, OH 44333. More information on the Start! Heart Walk is available by calling (330) 664-1901 or at heartwalk.kintera.org/akronoh.

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