Every milestone in 5-year-old Jacob Rodriguez's life is a big deal to his mother, Melissa.
Halfway through her pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed her son had a congenital heart defect that would require extensive surgeries to repair.
Jacob had only a single-chambered heart to do the work of a normal two-chambered heart.
If left untreated, Jacob would have died as a newborn. So Rodriguez, a Grovetown resident, agreed to a series of surgeries to repair Jacob's damaged heart.
"We had everything planned out to a T," Rodriguez said. "You have to put all your faith in them no matter what to make those decisions. You've got to trust them, because it is your child's life."
Jacob, who had four heart surgeries at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center, is one of several patients, donors and staff who will be featured in the Children's Miracle Network Celebration Telethon on Sunday. The 25th annual telethon, which will be broadcast live on WRDW-News Channel 12 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., is designed to raise funds for the region's only pediatric hospital.
"We had a wonderful experience there," Rodriguez said. "The staff is absolutely wonderful. They treat you like family."
Rodriguez said she and her then-husband, Daniel, researched hospitals outside the area, but opted to stay at the medical center.
Now that Jacob is healthy and headed to kindergarten in the fall, Rodriguez said she's decided to participate in the telethon that helps raise funds for the center that fixed her son's heart.
"All the local money stays local," said Denise Parrish, MCGHealth media relations manager. "All the money stays here to fund equipment, programs and other resources to care for the youngest patient population."
Parrish said some of the $880,440 raised in 2009 went to purchase blanket warmers for the Neonatal Intensive Care and Oncology units and a pediatric simulation center where emergency room doctors and staff get hands-on practice caring for a variety of illnesses and injuries on an interactive baby simulator.
The funds also paid for a play room on the fourth floor of the medical center, Parrish said.
Molly Johnson, 3, also had successful treatment at the medical center. At age 2, Molly, of Evans, was diagnosed with pre B Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Complaints of arm pain led to her cancer diagnosis and she was immediately transferred to the medical center.
Molly also will be featured during the telethon, and her family will participate in many fundraisers for the medical center, where she still goes monthly for chemotherapy treatments.
Her cancer is in remission and Molly is expected to take the last of her long-term maintenance care chemotherapy in February.
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