Stories of the Heart: Little boy from East Palestine now thriving after scary first few weeks

Local News

Wesley Franklin was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as a newborn but today, he's the American Heart Association's "Heart Child"

(WYTV) – An East Palestine boy was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth. But at 5 years old, he’s proof nothing can stop you.

“Just because you had something happen doesn’t mean it’s going to hold you back from things and, if anything, he’s an example of that,” Will Franklin said.

Will’s son, Wesley, is a heart warrior. Though you’d never know it by looking at him today, this preschooler’s journey with heart disease started at birth when he was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries.

“His arteries were both switched so he wasn’t getting the oxygen that he needed,” said Jessica Franklin, Wesley’s mom. “He also had a hole in his heart — which, actually, at the time — helped.”

“You’re just going through this whole rush of emotions and next thing you know, I’m in an ambulance with him, going to Akron Children’s and my wife’s staying at this hospital,” Will said. “Just a whole bunch of stuff going on. He had surgery to keep a valve in his heart open — I think a stent — and then once everyone got back to the main campus in Akron, then he had his open-heart surgery.”

All of this just two weeks after Wesley was born.

Fast-forward five years and Wesley is an energetic little boy ready to share his heart health tips with anyone willing to listen.

“Drink water, eat fruits and vegetables,” he said.

As this year’s American Heart Association Heart Child, Welsey’s parents couldn’t be prouder of their son and how far he’s come.

“He’s just thriving now,” Jessica said. “It was just such an emotional time for us and very traumatic, and then now you wouldn’t even know. If you don’t see the scar, you don’t even know. He’s just a normal 5-year-old.”

“When they’re first born, you’re scared of a lot of things,” Will said. “As a dad, ‘Can he play sports?’…He can do whatever he wants. He plays basketball, he plays football, we run around the park, always outside doing stuff.”

With the help of the AHA, the Franklins hope to inspire local families going through the same thing and are excited to see Wesley kick off the walk in September.

“That’s a big honor,” Will said. “Just so other people are aware of what the American Heart Association does and congenital heart defects, and just that there is support there for families when it does happen. And this is just a cool event that we never really knew about until recently, obviously, and just seeing all the cool things he’s going to get to do and experience is well worth it.”

Wesley still sees a cardiologist every year and in the future, he may need more surgeries. But for now, he is happy and fun-loving, thriving with no limitations.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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