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Young patient will lobby for funding for heart research

A local boy with a malfunctioning heart will go to WashingtonD.C. at the end of the month to see if he can talk the state’scongressional delegation into helping provide more funding formedical research.

Darron Pierce, an 8-year-old who attends Loyd Star AttendanceCenter, is scheduled to meet with Rep. Chip Pickering, Sen. ThadCochran and Sen. Roger Wicker on April 29 to request, on behalf ofthe American Heart Association, increased funding for heartresearch.

Pierce is a veteran of speaking for the association – havingonce been the spokesman for the McComb Heart Walk – and a veteranof heart trouble. His heart is affected by aortic stenosis, acondition that causes an obstruction of the aortic valve,preventing it from properly opening and allowing blood to flow fromthe left ventricle.

Pierce’s condition was discovered when he was diagnosed withcongestive heart failure when he was 5 months old.

“He has gone through numerous heart catheterizations,” saidPierce’s mother, Paige Chisolm. “He was in University hospital forclose to a month, and was in and out of there five or six times bythe time he was 2 years old.”

Now, Pierce is living the normal life that little boys live. Heparticipates in different sports programs at Loyd Star and usuallyfeels well.

But he tires easily, is prone to pneumonia and his heart isstill suspect. He visits a doctor in Brookhaven every six monthsfor a checkup, and will eventually require angioplasty.

It has a taken a lot of doctors and surgeries to get Pierce thisfar, and it will take at least one more for him to keep going. Histrip on behalf of the American Heart Association is not forpolitics; it’s for survival.

“One of the big things coming up in Congress is that they’rethinking about cutting the research funding for the heartassociation,” Chisolm said. “If it wasn’t for their research,Darron wouldn’t be here – he wouldn’t get to play ball or do any ofthe stuff that he does.”

The American Heart Association is one of several organizationswhose research and technology is funded by applying to the NationalInstitutions of Health, which has to be funded every year byCongress.

“Each year, a lot of groups get together and get their averagestogether, explain and demonstrate their needs and show where themoney is going,” said American Heart Association of MississippiState Advocacy and Health Alliance Director Lorrie Davis. “Thisyear, Darron will be a part of our national lobby day.”

Davis, who asked Pierce to make the trip, said the associationis not expecting him to make a sweeping presentation and quoteheart statistics. Instead, he will simply approach the congressmenand talk about sports, school and his life in general.

“We just want him to be himself,” Davis said. “Being a heartsurvivor, with technology and all the new research, he was able toget proper treatment, even in our state’s rural facilities. Hadthat funding not been created years ago and research done, hewouldn’t have had the resources to save his life. He has a story inthat – just his presence is a testimony.”