ATKINSON -- Carter Yackley is "a living, breathing miracle." Just ask his mom.
Carter, 7, son of Matt and Kim Yackley, of Atkinson, was discharged from Peoria Children's Hospital Sunday, Sept. 23, after being admitted Sept. 11 to have a third open-heart surgery.
As a result, medical expenses have continued to mount, something a group of family friends want to do something about, so they've formed a group called "Team Carter Cares."
The group will hold a ''Team Carter Fundraiser" Saturday, Oct. 6, which will include a bowl-a-thon, hog roast, auctions and music with a disc jockey and a band.
Carter's condition has been a family struggle, Mrs. Yackley said.
"It is so hard to see an innocent child in pain,'' she said. ''Why him? There are moments when you start to lose your way, when you want to take all the pain away, but you can't. What gets us through the sadness and loneliness is our faith."
''Carter has a special purpose in life,'' she said. ''He is here with us today for a reason. All we can do is enjoy each day as if it were our last. "
Just hours after Carter was born Aug. 20, 2005, in Moline, nurses detected his irregular breathing, Mrs. Yackley said.
Carter was then taken to Peoria Children's Hospital where he was diagnosed with Truncus Arteriosus, a congenital heart defect. Basically, Carter was born without a pulmonary artery and consequently no pulmonary and aorta valves, she said.
He was four days old when he underwent his first open-heart surgery, at which time doctors implanted two artificial valves. He was released from the hospital after 34 days.
''We thought everything was a success at the time, but when Carter was three months old, on Nov. 6, we noticed his irregular breathing and he had not been eating well," Mrs. Yackley said. "We knew something was wrong and we took him to the emergency room at Trinity Hospital in the middle of the night. He was airlifted to the hospital in Peoria."
The Yackleys learned then that both of his heart valves had failed.
''Carter was too sick to have surgery immediately so after five days, when he was stabilized, he was back in surgery," Mrs. Yackley said.
Human cadaver valves were used in Carter's first surgery, she said. He then received a St. Jude's mechanical aortic valve and a pig valve to replace the pulmonary valve in the second operation, Mrs. Yackley said.
At that time, doctors told them his replacement valves and artery would have to be replaced as he grew.
"But this time, they used an adult-size mechanical valve for the aortic valve and it cannot fail, and may not have to be replaced," Mrs. Yackley said.
His Sept. 11 surgery, though, wasn't completely without complications, she said.
Three days after surgery, doctors discovered bleeding from Carter's chest cavity, so he was taken back to surgery Sept. 15.
"They did not find the source of bleeding, but they did find blood clots around his lungs and heart, and that was taken care of," Mrs. Yackley said.
He remained in the hospital until Sept. 23 to allow him to gain strength.
"Unfortunately, his heart is still too weak on its own, so he currently is dependent on a pacemaker," Mrs. Yackley said.
His parents have remained dependent on their strong faith through all the trials and turmoil, and believes ''God heard all the prayers for Carter during the last few weeks,'' she said.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Mrs. Yackley said. "God has a plan for all of us. At the time we may not understand, agree with, or like the path that was created for us, but the path He has chosen makes us stronger."
If you go
Team Carter Fundraiser
Saturday, Oct. 6.
--1 to 4 p.m. bowl-a-thon, Lee's Lanes, Geneseo
Make team reservations by calling (309) 507-0510 or online at www.teamcartercares.blogspot.com.
--5 p.m. hog roast, Atkinson American Legion, free-will donations.
--6:30 p.m. pie auction
--8 p.m. silent auction biddings end.
For information, call (309) 269-0787 or email email@example.com. Team members are Jessica Hutchison, Tara VanOpdorp Goodwin, Dawn Hemphill, Jennifer Wanicki, Eugenia Walters, Holly Wangelin, and Brooke VanDerSnick.