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Habersham family struggles with toddlers heart disease
Lane Money plays with his little brother Lex. - photo by Tom Reed

CORNELIA — It was supposed to be a celebration day.

The car was packed outside Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, DeAnn Money’s father was cooking hamburgers at home and friends were set to visit.

Then, 20 minutes before they were to leave the hospital with their newborn son in June 2008, the Moneys’ pediatrician walked in the hospital room and told the couple that baby Lex has a heart murmur and needed to be checked out further.

The doctor left with Lex and returned without him, setting off alarm bells for the mother, DeAnn.

She was alone to hear the news, as her husband had left to fetch the base of a car seat they had left at their home in Clarkesville.

“Your son is very, very sick,” the doctor said.

Her immediate reaction was, “No, it can’t be my son.”

Lex was “the biggest baby up here. He was 8 pounds, 10 ounces and eating the most of any baby on the floor,” DeAnn said. “He was beautiful — big, healthy, his coloring was great.”

Turns out Lex had five major heart defects and required immediate open-heart surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

His condition was so serious that if the Moneys had taken their child home, he would have died overnight.

She called her husband, John, on his cell phone to break the news.

“Lane and I were about to walk out the door with the base of the car seat,” John said. “I had to sit (Lane) down and tell him ... there was the possibility that his brother may not be there when he gets back (to the hospital).”

He recalled the ordeal that followed.

“We stayed (at Egleston) maybe four to six weeks,” John said.

Lex has endured much since those early days of his life, including a second open-heart surgery in May 2009. He is now at home, where the family keeps a watchful eye on him.

They check his heart rate four times a day with a stethoscope and give him medicines.

“His diagnosis is complex congenital heart disease and heart failure,” DeAnn said.

Doctors have told the family Lex will need a heart transplant before he turns 20 and then every seven to 10 years afterward.

“I’m totally not going there. As his mother and as a Christian, I’m just going to ... speak right now complete, total healing on the heart he has,” DeAnn said, recalling a conversation with one of Lex’s doctors.

The ordeal has taken a financial toll on the family, including it having to pay insurance premiums of $2,027 a month. In the midst of their son’s health crisis, the recession also has pounded the Moneys’ welding business.

A fundraiser featuring bands, crafts and food to benefit the family has been set for 2-10 p.m. Saturday at the Habersham County Fairgrounds at 4235 Toccoa Highway in Clarkesville.

Despite all the bleak medical issues, Lex acts no differently than other toddlers his age, playing with his brother and watching “SpongeBob SquarePants” on TV.

“They (feature) him in seminars at Egleston because he is such a miracle,” DeAnn said. “He’s not supposed to do any of the things he does.”