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Heart Ball Ambassador

By this time tomorrow night, hundreds of people from across the corridor will be sharing the dance floor at the Doubletree Hotel in Cedar Rapids. It's the annual Heart Ball sponsored by the American Heart Association of Iowa. In our Person 2 Person report, meet this year’s ambassador to the ball.

Her name is Addie Gralund. She says, “I like to play volleyball, I like to cook, I like to play softball, and I like to read." Addie Gralund just turned 11 years old and yet she's already been through a lifetime of medical treatments.

"I have a heart condition, which means that I was born with three valves instead of four, and I had a hole in my heart." Addie's heart condition has so far required surgery four times. Her most recent one was last year.

Her mom, Kris, says it's hard to describe what it's like to let go of your child as they lay on the operating table. "She's had four open heart surgeries, and several procedures in between with catherizations and different things. And my husband and I have taken turns bringing her into the operating room and putting her on the operating table, and it is probably one of the worst feelings as a parent”, Gralund says.

Kris Gralund says she and her husband first learned of Addie’s condition the morning after she was born. During the night doctors and nurses noticed she had a loud murmur. The news was not good. She says, “It was really hard. I remember one of the nurses saying 'if you were to pick straws, you picked the short straw' here."

Today Addie enjoys life as a normal child, dancing with her older sister Hannah. You'd never know she first had surgery at only four weeks old. Her next, at seven months, then, two and a half years, and her most recent at ten. Her heart's artificial valve had worn out - and her stents had calcifications. Kris Gralund says, “I remember after her first surgery just being so excited, even though they left her chest open for three days, I was just really excited to see her again."

A chance meeting on an airplane by Addie’s uncle lead to her being chosen as this year's heart ball ambassador. She says she's excited to wear her beautiful new dress - and has just about memorized her speech. She says, "It starts out with thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak tonight.” "It tells about some stuff I like to do, and what's important, and about my heart."

CBS 2 News anchor Scott Sanborn will serve as emcee again this year and because Addie got to go last year, her mom says she's not even a little bit nervous to be on stage. "She's vivacious, she lives every minute to its fullest, is an entertainer, and likes to be the center of what's going on."

You can help research and education by making a donation to the American Heart Association.

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