MONTVALE, N.J. — Todd and Jaime Palatnek were halfway to their goal of raising $10,000 for the Children's Heart Foundation as of Monday morning.
The parents are launching the foundation's New Jersey chapter in honor of their son Cooper, 5, and his battle with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD).
The kickoff Superhearts Walk and Fun Day will begin at 11 a.m. at the Pascack Hills High School football field on Sunday, May 15.
At 7 weeks, baby Cooper was diagnosed with CHD. At four months, he had his first open-heart surgery.
The new parents promised each other that once their blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby was OK, they'd give back.
The Palatneks' message is clear.
“What happened to us could happen to anyone,” Jaime Palatnek said.
From the moment they brought Cooper home from the hospital in June 2011, the Palatneks knew something was wrong.
The newborn struggled to eat almost every time. Doctors assured them they were dealing with a fussy eater and that they were being "panicky parents."
Jaime Palatnek's maternal instinct knew better. Just about at her wits' end, she made an appointment with a gastrointestinal doctor days before Cooper turned 8 weeks.
"He was a godsend," Jaime Palatnek said. "He saved his life."
The meticulous physician took his time with Cooper. He removed the crinkly paper off the examining table, insisting on silence while listening to the ailing infant's tiny heart.
The doctor left the room. Then the Palatneks overheard dreaded words no parents want to hear.
"'Let's get the pediatrician on the phone,'" the physician told a colleague.
"I knew something was wrong," Jaime Palatnek said.
The doctor detected a heart murmur that carried a scary implication: It was CHD.
The ensuing surgery two months later was "the most traumatic experience" of Jaime Palatnek's life. Holding him again was all that mattered.
One in every 100 newborns in the United States is affected with CHD each year, according to the Children's Heart Foundation.
Twenty percent of babies with CHD don't live past their first birthday, CHF says.
Cooper defied the odds.
"He plays soccer, kickball and can beat me in a race," she said. "You'd never know what's going on inside of him."