In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 30, 2018

After Open-Heart Surgery, Enjoying Life as a ‘Normal’ College Kid

By In the Loop

Jack Long was 14 years old when he came to Mayo Clinic for surgery to repair the Ebstein’s anomaly heart defect he was born with. Today, thanks to the work of Dr. Joseph Dearani and the rest of his care team, Jack’s living the life of a normal, and healthy, college student.

Jack Long was 14 when he came to Mayo Clinic for surgery to repair his heart. Today, thanks to the work of his care team, Jack is living the life of a normal, healthy college student.

Jack Long was born with a rare congenital heart defect called Ebstein's anomaly. The tricuspid valve of his heart had formed "out of position." For the first few years of his life, Jack showed no symptoms. That changed as he entered his teen years. He began to experience symptoms when he played sports. "It was harder to breathe, and I got tired a lot faster," Jack told Mayo Clinic News Network in 2014.

That's when Jack's parents brought him from their home in New Jersey to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus to meet with cardiovascular surgeon Joseph Dearani, M.D. Dr. Dearani would eventually perform a corrective operation known as a cone procedure to fix Jack's anomaly.

Before that took place, however, Jack decided he wanted to do something to raise awareness and research funding to help others living with congenital heart defects. After Jack's initial consultation with Dr. Dearani, he and some of his classmates and teachers came up with a slogan — "Live LONG, Beat STRONG" — that they had printed on bracelets and T-shirts. Jack sold them out of his locker at school. His older brother built a website that featured other ways to donate, along with a video of Dr. Dearani talking about Ebstein's anomaly.

Jack's initial goal was to raise $1,000, which he quickly flew right on by. "I was like, 'We could actually make a change here,'" Jack says of the more than $10,000 he ended up raising and donating to Mayo Clinic. The surgical procedure has made a significant change for him and his quality of life. "Things are going pretty well," he tells us. "I'm in college now and just sort of living life like a normal college kid."

He's also back to playing sports — this time, with no restrictions or limitations. "I'm actually in the best shape of my life right now," Jack says. And while some of that can be attributed to the effort he's put into his rehab and recovery, his parents tell us most of the credit — and all of the thanks — goes to Mayo Clinic, Dr. Dearani, and the members of his surgical team. "Our experience with Mayo Clinic was really phenomenal," Jack's father, Michael Long, tells us. "Even though there's quite a bit of distance between New Jersey and Minnesota, Dr. Dearani always made us feel like he was just down the street. As parents, that meant a lot."

It also meant a lot to Jack, who tells us that the care and support he received at Mayo Clinic has inspired him to consider going to medical school after graduation. "My care team just made everything easier, made me feel so much better, and made me feel like that's something I possibly want to do for others, too."

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Tags: Cardiac Surgery, Dr. Joseph Dearani, Ebstein's anomaly, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Patient Stories

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