CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. - Tiny but strong, Elliot Dykstra is a little warrior with a courageous heart. In just the first year of his life, he has spent 303 days in the hospital and undergone 11 surgeries, but he continues to beat the odds at every turn.
Elliot's journey actually started at Cedar Animal Hospital, where his mom, Kelly is a vet tech. She started to feel sick and was about to head home when she stood up and went into labor. Elliot was delivered within 30 seconds, three months early.
But it wasn't until a week went by when doctors at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital determined that little Elliot had serious heart problems: He was born with transposition of the greater artery, which means the two main arteries that came out of his heart were backwards.
Not only that, Elliot had three holes in his heart.
Elliot underwent open heart surgery to correct his arteries, and at just under seven pounds, he became the smallest born survivor of transposition of the great arteries.
"He's always been a tough guy," said Kelly. "But it didn't really sink in until we got him home and we saw all the times we could have lost him."
It's been a long road, but Elliot just had his first birthday.
Mom and dad are thankful for how far they've come and are looking forward to the future. "He's definitely taught us a couple lessons and humbled us."
"We're just very proud of him."