Riverview resident Douglas Sexton is involved with the Children’s Heart Foundation as a member of the young adult board (ages 18-40) to advocate for adults who have congenital heart defects. He has participated in many events and fundraisers for the foundation, including the annual Congenital Heart Walk, for which he is a committee member, in order to raise money to fund research for congenital heart defects.
Sexton is a congenital heart defect survivor himself, having had several surgeries in his life. He said that when he was born in 1986, doctors didn’t know if he would survive because technology, medicine and information about these defects weren’t as advanced as they are now. Most parents were advised to take their child with a complex defect home and make them as comfortable as possible because there wasn’t much that could be done.
Sexton not only survived, he has thrived throughout his life. This inspired him to not only get involved with the Children’s Heart Foundation but also put himself on his career path in which he does echocardiograms on both children and adults with congenital heart defects.
The now 34-year-old Sexton is married to his wife, Christine, and they have four children. He has been able to stay healthy due to advancements in medicine, technology and knowledge in the field of congenital heart defects.
Sexton stresses the importance of research for this cause, explaining that surgeries for congenital heart defects are a temporary fix and not a cure. The patients will need more maintenance throughout their lives and have to follow up with a cardiologist frequently.
He had his first open-heart surgery at 13 years old and his second at 17. Four years ago, he was the recipient of some of the latest technology when he received a valve replacement through catheterization. Sexton has a pacemaker and has to take medication for the rest of his life to regulate his heart as well.
“I’m personally affected by this and due to the significant advancements in the research that has happened over the last 30 plus years, I have survived and I’m able to lead a pretty normal life,” said Sexton.
Sexton participated in this year’s virtual Congenital Heart Walk. Due to COVID-19, the foundation wasn’t able to raise as much money as it had in previous years. In 2019, just under $50,000 was raised, as opposed to $20,000 this year because of the challenges of the event being virtual.
The virtual events were held from October 27-31, with the walk occurring on October 31 through several social media platforms. The Tampa/St. Pete area walk returned in 2019 after a four-year absence due to organizational issues.
According to Sexton, research for congenital heart defects is the most underfunded area of research. If you would like to donate or learn more, visit ChildrensHeartFoundation.org.