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Gifts from the Heart

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Drew Prestholt

Drew Prestholt, 16, a sophomore at Newman Catholic, talks about his recovery after heart surgery.

MASON CITY | A Newman Catholic sophomore who recently had two major surgeries will soon have an updated, comfortable place to relax in his Mason City home.   

Drew Prestholt, 16, was born with severe heart defects. The main arteries leaving his heart were reversed, seriously affecting his internal oxygen flow.

He also had atrial and ventricular septal defects, commonly known as a “hole” in the heart.

After being flown to University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City shortly after his birth, Drew underwent cardiac surgery. Doctors considered the 10-hour procedure successful.

But in late 2013, his aortic valve began showing signs of failure. Keeping up on the basketball court, a sport Drew said he’s enjoyed playing since junior high, was becoming more difficult.

Mom Dawn Prestholt also recalled a request -- extra pillows -- to combat shortness of breath while laying in bed. 

Facing open heart surgery for valve replacement, Drew said it was “scary at first” but tried to maintain an optimistic outlook.

When Drew had the operation in January 2014 at St. Marys Hospital, dad Derek Prestholt said the entire immediate family, including two sisters and two brothers, made the trip to Rochester.

Younger siblings who didn’t understand the magnitude of the procedure were jealous at first that their brother was missing school, Dawn said.

“When they saw him in recovery, they realized it wasn’t fun and games,” she explained.

After six days in the hospital, Drew recovered at home for about six weeks. During that time, he was able to keep up on his schoolwork, even writing a science report about his surgeries.

Seven months later, Drew was facing another serious surgery.

According to Mayo Clinic cardiologist Nathaniel Taggart, Drew’s ascending aorta had narrowed as a result of the valve replacement surgery, creating extra work for his heart. A stent was needed to correct the problem.

Although his parents were close to tears after hearing the news, Drew responded maturely.

“When I asked Drew what he thought about needing another procedure -- possibly an open-heart operation --- after he just had one in January, he simply grinned and said, ‘Well, we need to do it,’” Taggart said via email.

Although rarely performed, surgeons were able to use a non-invasive method to put the stent in place.

While he continues yearly checkups at Mayo Clinic and will require a mechanical aortic valve replacement in 10 to 15 years, life has mostly returned to normal.

Drew is back to his regular schedule at school and participates in band and choir. He recently started his first job, working with 2- and 3-year-olds at Newman’s day care.

Although sports are currently restricted, he hopes doctors will clear him to play next year.

In the meantime, he will have a new bedroom to enjoy, courtesy of My Happy Place.

After Dawn contacted the organization, which does room makeovers for North Iowa children who are sick or grieving, board member Deidra Rattay said Drew was unanimously selected.

“This boy has struggled his entire life, with everything revolving around going to the doctor to when the next procedure is,” Rattay explained. “We thought it would be amazing to give him something to look forward to not related to his health.”

Although his bedroom won’t be revealed until March 1, Drew received an early present.  

Right before winter break, My Happy Place staff showed up at his school as a surprise, congratulating him on receiving the bedroom makeover and sharing treats with his classmates.

In tow was a new laptop, a Christmas gift Rattay said Drew had wanted but his parents couldn’t afford.

Rattay has been impressed with the Newman’s support for the Prestholts.

“Everyone has been wanting to help,” she said.

While the room remodel is top-secret, Drew is hopeful décor will include some of his favorite historical elements like the Revolutionary War or maps.

The family is thankful for the encouragement and kind deeds they have received.

“Newman has been wonderful because they have really rallied around him with prayer and teacher support,” Dawn said. “I don’t know if we could have gotten through it without them.”

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