On Valentine’s Day, first-grader Landon Perez and his teacher, Lauren Mahon, wore matching red t-shirts with the words “Hearts Beating for Landon” across the chest.
“My t-shirt’s special,” Landon explained. “I had heart surgery when I was a baby because something was wrong with my heart.”
His best friend, Cesar Perez, added, “His heart’s special.”
Landon is one of three honorees who will be celebrated at the 2019 Putnam Heart Walk at Brewster High School on April 28. His team, Hearts Beating for Landon, is raising money for the American Heart Association.
Born in September 2012, Landon and his twin sister Lucia seemed perfectly healthy at birth.
“He never cried. He was just the easiest baby ever,” explained Landon’s mom, Hannah Perez. “Then, suddenly, at 28 days old, I was getting him ready to go to his one-month checkup and he would not stop crying.” Perez took her children to their appointment early, demanding a room. When the doctor came in, her son was gray and having trouble breathing. An ambulance was called and Landon was eventually transferred to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla where it was determined that he had a rare heart defect: anomalous aortic origin of the left coronary artery.
“A coronary artery in his heart is taking the wrong path,” Perez explained. Landon is unable to play competitive sports because the path his heart takes could cause the stop of blood flow if he was to get hit. When he’s 8 or 9 years old, Landon will undergo open heart surgery to try to rearrange the path his coronary artery takes.
To prepare Landon and his friends for his upcoming surgery, Perez explains that Landon’s heart defect is being spoken about more at school. On Valentine’s Day, for instance, many of the students in Landon’s class were wearing glittery red heart pins in support of their classmate.
“They’re going to start bringing in more heart education units in health class and in gym,” Perez explained. “And they’re going to start teaching kids a little bit about Landon so that when he needs surgery again, his classmates are not surprised that he’s missing and they’re all there to support him and show him love.”
Another way to support Landon is to come out to the Putnam Heart Walk in April and to support his team. Donations can be made at Topp’s Grocery store in Carmel and through the Putnam Heart Walk website. Hearts Beating for Landon t-shirts can be obtained by emailing Hannah Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re raising money for the American Heart Association because they’re the ones who are funding the research into making advances in medicine. They’re backed by scientists and cardiologists,” Perez said.
As for Landon, Perez just lights up when it comes to talking about him.
“He is just the most amazing boy ever,” she beamed. “He has big dreams. Just today I was going through his folder from school. They had to write goals for 2019 and Landon’s goal is to feed homeless people. He has the biggest heart ever. He just wants what’s best for everybody, always. He’s a very special boy who is going to go so far in life.“