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Get Inspired: Read the stories of our local survivors



Caleb Peltier, 3-year-old Survivor ~ San Diego County Resident


At three days old, Caleb was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that he had critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). His organs were shutting down….he was dying. Doctors were able to get him stable enough for heart surgery at two weeks old and save his life. Caleb was alive and on the road to recovery…. He was out of the hospital in about 9 days….. It has been a long road, another open heart surgery, and a lot of doctor appointments.

Today, Caleb is a healthy, playful 3-year old. Doctors hope that he will never need another surgical correction and will be able to live a long, healthy, normal life. Caleb’s family is grateful for the work of the American Heart Association and the outstanding donors that have made their work possible. If it weren’t for this research and medical breakthroughs funded by the American Heart Association, Caleb would not be alive. While much research has been funded, more needs to be done to ensure that our loved ones are safeguarded from this deadly and debilitating killer.

Caleb and his family invite you to think about those that you love so dearly in your life and what you would do for more time with them. His family encourages you to fund life-saving research by supporting the American Heart Association.


Ian Atencio, 5-year-old heart disease survivor ~ Riverside County Resident

At 5 years old, Ian Atencio has been through more in his young life than most will in a lifetime. Ian was born with a rare condition which prevents the heart from pumping blood properly. Ian underwent open-heart surgery to repair his defective heart valves at the tender age of four months. He quickly bounced back from the procedure, thrived like other kids his age and met his milestones.

However, Ian was diagnosed last year with an enlarged heart, prompting the need for another open-heart surgery. Advances in cardiovascular research have made it possible for Ian to live like other kids his age, but his battle with heart disease is not over.


Vandna Mittal, 23-year-old stroke survivor ~ San Bernardino County Resident

Vandna Mittal was only 15 years old when she suffered a massive stroke in 2005. Vandna did not get treatment within the critical three-hour window but through the expeditious response of her physicians, she survived and has made a remarkable recovery. Despite initial prognosis that she may never be able to live a normal life, Vandna defied the odds and went on to finish school with a degree in speech therapy from the University of Redlands. She is striving to become a full-time elementary school teacher and, one day, open her own after-school program. She encourages other patients in rehabilitation and with disability to keep fighting and persevere with their therapy.

Kaelyn Graham, 9-year-old heart disease survivor ~ Orange County Resident

Kaelyn Graham was born with only half a heart. By the time she was 4 years old, she had three open heart surgeries, was living on very low oxygen levels and had a pacemaker to regulate her heart rate. Unfortunately her body continued to struggle.

In 2010, Kaelyn underwent a nine-hour surgery to receive a new heart. Post-transplant, Kaelyn continues to fight for her life, battling acute rejection once already and taking numerous medications. At some point in the future, Kaelyn will acquire transplant-related heart disease. Currently, the only solution is another heart transplant. Kaelyn’s family hopes further research which will provide an easier and safer solution, when that time comes.

Christine Wanamaker, 49-year-old heart disease survivor ~ Orange County Resident

Three years ago, while working as a yard supervisor at her son’s school, 46-year-old Christine Wanamaker knew something was really wrong. Simultaneous pain in her left arm, radiating pain in her chest and shortness of breath could not be ignored. She drove herself to the hospital. After reporting her symptoms, she was quickly whisked into the ER.

The doctors soon discovered that three of her arteries were 95% blocked and another was 75% blocked. Christine underwent successful quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to her heart. Thanks to research and the development of procedures such as angioplasty and bypass surgery, Christine is alive and well today.

Keyota and Faith Cole, Mother and Daughter heart disease survivors ~ Los Angeles County Residents

Keyota Cole was born with a hole in her heart and had two surgeries before the age of five. In her late 20s, new heart troubles led to a third surgery. Shortly after another procedure in 2010, Keyota was excited to learn that she was pregnant. But the joy was tempered with her doctor’s warning that pregnancy could kill her and the discovery that her baby also had a serious heart defect.

Defying all odds, Keyota gave birth to Faith at full term. After open-heart surgery at only six days old, Keyota’s miracle baby opened her eyes. Today, both mother and daughter are thriving, thanks to research that led to the procedures that saved their lives.

Caden Ayon, 6-year-old heart disease survivor ~ Kern County Resident

Caden Ayon was 9 months old when a routine check-up revealed that he has a heart defect. At 13 months old, Caden had open-heart surgery. His recovery went well but a post-op check months later showed the problem had re-occurred. Doctors watched his condition for a few years until it was time for another surgery. Last year, at age 5, Caden went in for a second open-heart surgery in an attempt to fix the problem and prevent reoccurrences.

Unfortunately, complications led to another surgery to put in a pacemaker that would regulate his heartbeat. Today, Caden is a happy, healthy kindergartener who enjoys spending time with his two brothers.