Shaun White is the epitome of what it means to be an Olympian. His strength, perseverance, and heart — a surgically-repaired heart — have earned him a place at four consecutive Winter Olympics.
As a baby, White was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a rare heart condition comprised of four congenital cardiac defects. On Jimmy Kimmel Live! in May 2017, White told Kimmel, whose son also has TOF, that he’s undergone three operations to repair his heart.
This year, White’s Olympic appearance coincides with CHD Awareness Week (February 7-14th). While White represents the U.S. at the Olympics, he also represents the hopes and dreams of every parent of a child battling a heart condition.
“It’s reassuring to see them performing at the peak of athleticism with those heart defects,” said Bill Hammond, whose infant daughter has TOF.
Jarred Silvia, 18, was also born with TOF and says Shaun White is his role model. He credits White’s example, and his parents refusal to limit him, with his athletic achievements.
“They let me play soccer, they let me go skiing, snowboarding. They just pushed me to become the best version of me possible.” He now runs track for Maryville University in St. Louis.
Explaining her one-year-old son’s limitations, or lack thereof, has also been made easier by White for mom Amanda Brown.
“When telling friends and family about Oliver’s prognosis… people often assume or worry that your little heart warrior will have a lot of restrictions or limitations in life. I always mention [White] when others seemed worried, and it instantly helped,” said Brown.
Sarah Scanlan is the mom of a Mara Kate, an 8-month-old living with Tetralogy of Fallot.