August 29, 2012 - By Curtis Pulliam
Oxford resident Jason Paslean loves baseball, both playing and watching it. He’s a Detroit Tigers fan. (click for larger version)
Jason Paslean just walked in the door with his grandma, coming back from a minor league baseball game between the Lansing Lugnuts and Great Lakes Loons.
Any 7½-year-old would be tired from the game, wanting to go straight to bed. But not Jason. Wearing a Loons cap, he goes to play with the new baseball cards he got the day before at the Greenfield Village historic baseball tournament.
While figuring out a lineup with his cards, he turns on Quick Pitch, his favorite show on MLB (Major League Baseball) Network.
"He could sit there and watch MLB Network for hours, he loves baseball," said Jon Paslean, Jason's father. "I love baseball too but sometimes I have to tell him to talk about something else."
This past spring, Jason played in ORBA and of course went down to see his favorite team, the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
"My favorite player is Alex Avila," Jason said. "It was a lot of fun getting to play this year and I'm looking forward to next year."
For most people, baseball is just a game or something fun to watch in their spare time, but for Jason and the Pasleans however, the sport has a little bit of a stronger, more impactful meaning.
"It's our enjoyment. It's what we do," Jon said. "I've been around it since I was little, as my dad played, and my grandfather played. Keith (older brother of Jason and 2011 Oxford grad, now at Macomb Community College playing baseball) loved it since he began playing, and now (siblings) Jennifer and Justin love it just as much. We're always at a game somewhere watching, or in the yard playing ball. It's our family fun. Some families go to Cedar Point as their entertainment - we're into baseball."
Even though Jason adores everything about baseball and the Detroit Tigers, the time will come where he will no longer be able to play the game he loves so much.
Jason was born on Jan. 18, 2005 at St. Joseph Macomb Hospital. 12 hours after he was born he turned blue. He was then quickly transported to Children's Hospital of Michigan.
It was at Children's Hospital that he was first diagnosed with Tricuspid and Pulmonary Atresia, a congenital heart defect, which means the right side of his heart does not work. In addition, his heart is Dextro and Dextra Cardia, meaning his heart is flipped in his chest and tilted to the right side instead of the left. The odds of this happening to any child are 1 in 500.
"We were scared," Jennifer Paslean, Jason's mother, said. "We were scared and shocked until we found exactly what was wrong."
Jason was in the hospital for 16 days, and he had his first surgery when he was just 10 days old.
The surgery bought time for him to become bigger and stronger so they could do additional surgery.
Months later, in August of 2005, Jason had his first open heart surgery. This surgery was to correct the congenital heart defect he was diagnosed with back in January. The procedure they used was the Bi-Directional Glenn, taking the superior Vena-Cava and disconnecting it from the right side of his heart to connect it to the Pulmonary artery. Seven-month old Jason was in the hospital for five days.
The surgeries didn't stop there though. His completion surgery was on August 31th, 2007. He was only two and a half years old and ended up spending 20 days in the hospital.
This procedure was a completion Fontan. The surgery disconnected the inferior vena-cava from the right side of the heart, hooked it to a Gortex tube and connected it to the pulmonary artery.
It was a long 20 days spent by Jason in the hospital, but he got a surprise from the Detroit Tigers.
"We knew one of the nurses down there so she talked to the head nurse and they got in contact with the Tigers," said the Pasleans. "Since it was during the season, there was no way a player could come to the hospital but they were able to get a package delivered for him which included a hat, lanyard, yearbook, baseball cards, stickers, and some stuff from the All-Star game. Jason was so happy and very excited. It made his day."
However, the surprise didn't end there for Jason and the Pasleans.
"After we got home, he received a letter and a signed picture from Justin Verlander," said the Pasleans. "We didn't know anything was coming. We were just as shocked as he was when we got it."
From day one, the Pasleans were told Jason would be very limited regarding highly competitive contact sports. However, after doctor approval, Jason was cleared to play tee ball and coach pitch.
"It means the world to me. After watching my child go thru 3 open-heart surgeries, it's a blessing from God that he's doing this well," said Jennifer. "Doing something that he loves, like playing baseball, is just icing on the cake."
Nonetheless, just because Jason was cleared to play the past couple years, the Pasleans still have to be cautious with him at all times.
"We just have to be very careful with him every day," Jennifer said. "We have to watch how tired he gets daily and take him for check-ups. He just has special limitations that's all. But the thing is he understands everything and we don't hide anything from him. He knows the day will come when he has to stop playing."
Meanwhile,they are hoping for one more year so he can play with his brother Justin. Jason is now involved with other activities, including bowling, golfing, Lego Club and Cub Scouts.
"We want him to be a well-rounded individual and have all these different experiences," said the Pasleans. "If he doesn't like something, he'll tell you and he's not going to be forced to do it. So far though, he has yet to try anything he doesn't like."
In addition to these activities, the family is going to be participating in the 2nd Congenital Heart Walk of South East Michigan, which takes place at Depot Park in Clarkston on Sunday, Oct. 7 to raise awareness regarding Jason's condition.
"Our team name is Team Jason," said the Pasleans. "People are more than welcome to join our team if they want or make a donation through the website. We just want to do what we can to help others who are going or went through the same thing."
Last year, the event raised $25,000 towards congenital heart research and services.
"I'm excited to raise money to help find a cure or research as to why this happens to kids so other kids don't have to go through what my son went through," said Jennifer. "It will also be nice for Jason to meet other individuals that have a congenital heart defect. It will be nice for him, if he ever gets frustrated because he can't do something because he does have limitations, to be able to talk to someone who's been through a similar experience, so he can see he's not the only one."
More information on the event and donating can be found at http://congenitalheartwalk.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1028344