Our son Alec James Louis Kahler (A.J.) was born on November 12, 2007 with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. My husband and I had found out that A.J. had a heart defect at our 18 week sonogram. The doctors did not know how soon A.J. would need his surgery, but they were certain that he would require at least one to survive. After being born at Mercy Hospital, A.J. spent his first week at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh where they monitored his heart defect and also found out that he had hemivertebra in the cervical and thoracic part of his spine. Our good news, though, was that he would not need his heart surgery right away and we were able to take him home to his big brother, Ashton, on November 18, 2007.
After numerous weekly doctor's appointments that first month, it was determined that A.J. would need his heart surgery sooner rather than later. His heart surgery was scheduled for December 18, 2007. The doctors had a positive outlook and told us that he had an excellent chance of survival and he would be able to “run a marathon” when it was all said and done. There were complications during A.J.’s surgery and he came out on life support (ECMO). He spent almost 3 weeks in the hospital, on and off ECMO, fighting every day for his little life before he passed away on January 4, 2008 – just 7 ½ weeks after he was born. This had certainly become the worst day of our lives followed by the nightmare of telling his 3 year old brother that A.J. would not be coming home. The unthinkable had happened to our family and since that day we have been trying to guide our efforts towards making something positive out of losing A.J.
We try to honor A.J.’s memory every chance we get. With the help of our family and friends we donated 8 beautiful rocking chairs to the CICU unit at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in his memory. We also are part of a non-profit organization called Zachary's Mission that delivers snack sacks to the families in the cardiac intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.
This year we are hosting the 5th annual "Remember An Angel, Swing For a survivor" Golf Outing in loving memory of A.J. All of our profits go to the Alec Kahler Memorial Fund of The Children's Heart Foundation. In the past three years we have raised over $100,000 that has gone towards the research of congenital heart defects. We are thankful to have found such a wonderful organization where we can help fund some of the most promising research projects for Congenital Heart Defects. It is my hope to save another parent from ever having to go through this heartache of losing their child.
Since A.J.'s passing, I have attended the Aching Arms Support Group. A wonderful network of mothers and fathers whose heartaches are heard and whose shoes each of us have walked in. The monthly meetings have been inspiring and comforting to the point that you do not feel you are alone. It is hopeful to see how other people have made it through the worst tragedies of our lives.
We hold A.J. close within our hearts and he will always walk with us throughout our lives. His was a precious life that will be forever in our hearts. We miss him more than anyone will ever know and he will always be our fighting hero and our precious, treasured angel.
~A.J.'s Mom and Dad, James and Denise Kahler