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Published February 19, 2013, 11:37 PM

HerVoice: Hawley teenager remains positive despite multiple health complications

HAWLEY, Minn. – At age 14, Mariah Larson has already gone through five heart surgeries. The freshman at Hawley High School was born with anomalous origin of the left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery, or ALCAPA, a rare but serious congenital condition.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

HAWLEY, Minn. – At age 14, Mariah Larson has already gone through five heart surgeries.

The freshman at Hawley High School was born with anomalous origin of the left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery, or ALCAPA, a rare but serious congenital condition.

Without surgical intervention, 9 out of 10 children with ALCAPA die within the first year of life, according to the American Heart Association.

Though she’s just a teenager, Mariah has gone through more major health complications than many people experience in a lifetime, yet she remains a positive, compassionate person.

“She has the biggest heart,” said Char Larson, Mariah’s mom. When Mariah needed surgery in December 2011, she was worried about ruining her family’s Christmas, Larson said.

“She’s always so worried about ruining our lives,” Larson said. “We tell her all the time we wouldn’t trade her in for anything.”

Mariah had to have a mechanical valve put in her heart in 2005 and has needed surgery to repair and replace the valve.

She also needed surgery to repair her aortic valve, Jan. 18 at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

To complicate matters further, Mariah also has Factor XIII deficiency – a rare blood disorder that causes a tendency for severe bleeding. That makes her frequent surgeries and need to be on blood thinners dangerous, Char said.

Mariah’s health issues are likely something she will have to deal with her whole life, Char said.

Because of her own experiences, Mariah would like to work with children in health care someday, she said.

“If they’re nervous about something, I can talk them through it because I’ve been through it before,” Mariah said.

Mariah goes to school and is active in sports. Char says if you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t realize how many health complications she has.

“She knows her limits, so she knows what she can do, and the coaches are aware of her issues,” Char said.

Mariah said she does have to be careful. She wears knee braces when she plays volleyball and softball and sometimes her blood levels keep her from playing.

It can be overwhelming to see all of her friends having fun when she can’t, Mariah said.

“It’s a lot to take in knowing I’m so young having to deal with so many surgeries,” she said.

But she also said her supportive family, friends and community help her stay positive.

“Getting all of those get-well cards, it’s just good to see that people care,” Mariah said.

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How to help

What: Mariah Idland Larson benefit fundraiser

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Hawley Elementary School

Donation info: To make an online donation, visit: at www.dakmed.org/lendahand, click on “Donate” and the gift amount next to “Mariah Idland Larson Benefit Fund.” Or donate to the Mariah Idland Larson Benefit Fund at Bell State Bank & Trust, 409 Sheyenne St. West Fargo, ND 58078.

Silent auction donations can be sent to Brooke Ames at 510 4th St. Hawley, MN 56549 or to Hawley Women of Today, Attn: Brooke, PO Box 831, Hawley, MN 56549.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526.

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