By Mark Ambrogi
Born with a heart defect, Caden Coonfield has already been through a lot in his first five months.
His father, Zionsville Fire Dept. firefighter Rob Coonfield, wants to do his part to help.
“The poor little guy has had to do a lot of fighting along the way, and this is something where I can fight right alongside of him and, hopefully, help other families with Mended Little Hearts, who are on the same journey,” Coonfield said.
Coonfield, 33, will run wearing his firefighting gear in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon May 5 to support Mended Little Hearts of Indianapolis, a nonprofit that specializes in providing support for children with congenital heart defects and their families. He has a mission of completing 240 miles before the Mini-Marathon, accepting donations for each mile he completes.
Coonfield, who lives in Avon with his wife, Aimee, Caden, and 2-year-old daughter Addison, has been with ZFD for eight years. He previously worked for the Brownsburg Fire Dept. for two years.
“I think it’s great what he is doing. Mended Little Hearts is a great organization and they’ve been really supportive of our situation,” Aimee said. “It’s been nice because there are parents with children older than our son, and they’ve been able to give us insight and encouragement. It’s nice he’s doing it because I’ve been able to make more connections with other parents.”
On Nov. 13, 2017, Caden was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. During pregnancy, the left side of the baby’s heart does not form correctly and can’t effectively pump blood to the body. So the right side of the heart must pump blood to the lungs and rest of the baby’s body.
Coonfield said the family discovered Caden had HLHS around the 20-week point of the pregnancy when the doctor noticed something on the ultrasound and wanted more pictures of the baby’s heart.
“He has quite a few defects,” Coonfield said. “Our surgeon said during his first open heart surgery that his heart is one of the most unique he has seen. When we found out in June, it was earth-shattering and hard for Aimee and me. We have a strong faith in what God can do.”
Caden has had two open heart surgeries and has had several other procedures to improve blood flow. Coonfield said HLHS babies usually have three open heart surgeries and that if all goes well, most kids with HLHS can function quite normally.
“Obviously, there are some restrictions,” he said. “He will constantly be followed up on and be on medications the rest of his life.”
Some adults with HLHS are candidates for a heart transplant at some stage.
“Some kids don’t make it to this point, and there are some kids, and they started this 30-some years ago, that are now in their 30s and living ’normal’ lives,” Coonfield said.
Sports have been a big part of the Coonfield couple’s lives. Coonfield, who played soccer at Brownsburg High School and Indiana Wesleyan University, has been an assistant soccer coach at the University of Indianapolis for several years.
Aimee, daughter of ex-Avon High School girls basketball coach Steve Drabyn, played basketball and volleyball at Avon. She played volleyball at Holy Family University in Philadelphia and is a former assistant volleyball coach at the University of Indianapolis.
Coonfield said some kids with HLHS respond well to treatment and are able to play sports with some minor restrictions.
“Some have restrictions on their exertion and they are not able to do that type of activity,” Coonfield said. “Our biggest thing is, regardless of what he can do, whatever he is passionate about, he is able to do it within what his heart will allow him to do.”