To her mother, grandmother and those around her, Gracie Green is a champion, and now that title has been made official, since she’s the Heart Champion for the 27th Capital Region Heart Ball.
Green, 7, has already had heart surgery and may have a pulmonary valve replacement after she turns 10, but she is able to live a normal life, and that’s why her story will be told to inspire others with heart-related diseases on Saturday, March 20, from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs.
Green’s mom, Jaime Lafferty, described her daughter’s condition in simple terms: She has a hole in her heart and a valve that doesn’t work properly. The medical name for the common congenital heart defect is Tetralogy of Fallot, which is diagnosed at birth and can sometimes make affected children turn blue.
That was a scary feeling because after my mother and I found out, she looked blue to us all the time, said Lafferty.
Green did have a `blue spell` at 6 months old, and after surgery to patch the hole, she became an active 7-year-old with essentially no restrictions. She plays soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter, plays piano, has done ballet, tap dance and hip-hop dance since she was 3 years old. She also takes an active role in community groups like 4H and Girl Scouts. Green has even done her part to help other girls by donating her hair twice to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs to those who have lost their hair due to cancer or other diseases.
`She’s able to do all these activities and do some of her favorite things, like going on roller coasters at amusement parks,` said Lafferty. `It would break my heart to have to tell her she couldn’t go on or do some of those things.`
Green gets her heart checked once a year and Lafferty said she handles her disease pretty well, even sharing her story with her friends. When she once asked about the scar on her chest, Lafferty said she told her her heart was once broken and doctors fixed it. Lafferty, though, said she takes things one day at a time, leaning on her own mother for support.
`It was very scary at first finding out my baby had a problem and understanding what exactly she had ` understanding the medical terms,` said Lafferty. `[My mother] has come to every appointment Gracie has had since birth. She’s there if I miss something the doctor said or I don’t understand. We can, between the two of us, figure it out.`
Lafferty said she has been active in the American Heart Association, which sponsors the Heart Ball, since her daughter was born. For eight years, they have participated in the Heart Walk as `Gracie Green’s Gang,` raising money and spreading awareness in honor of Green’s friend, Owen, who
was also born with a heart condition.
Patty Fusco, president of Fusco Personnel and CEO of TCE Search Group is the volunteer chairwoman for this year’s Heart Ball and played a big role in giving Green the big night she’s so excited about. Working with the American Heart Association is more than just about supporting a good cause for her.
`Heart disease runs in my family so it’s more personal for me. It’s definitely something I felt strongly about and I thought I could make a difference,` said Fusco.
Fusco said by working to make the Heart Ball a success, she hopes to help prevent heart disease in others.
`Heart Ball is important because we definitely need to build awareness about heart disease`it’s the No.1 killer in America`and to help raise money to continue to do research,` said Fusco. `It’s a really fun vent, a great time. It’s very well attended and there are some wonderful people that will spread the word.`
The Heart Ball will feature a cocktail hour, silent auction, live auction, dinner and dancing to Good for the Soul. John Gray of FOX 23 is the host and Legrande Serras of The Reel Seafood Company will act as auctioneer.