“I’m having a cramp in my heart,” Joshua told his mom after playing basketball in his yard one night.
His mother, 9News anchor Cheryl Preheim, listened to the little boy’s chest.
Six-year-old Joshua’s heart was racing.
Later, at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s South Campus, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Michael Schaffer ran a battery of tests.
The diagnosis was something for which neither Cheryl nor her husband Mark were prepared.
Joshua had an atrial septal defect, a serious congenital heart condition that would require a major operation.
Brave conquers fear
Doctors initially opted to monitor Joshua’s condition, but six months later, his heart was beginning to enlarge. He needed open-heart surgery.
Joshua was scared. But he prepared himself for this major procedure by developing a personal mantra that he repeated whenever he was afraid: Brave conquers fear.
A few days before his surgery at the Children’s Colorado Heart Institute, his friends surprised him with a gift -- T-shirts with the phrase “Brave conquers fear” written in Joshua’s handwriting.
As Joshua headed into surgery, his whole family wore their “Brave conquers fear” T-shirts. His parents gave their son a kiss for the last time before he was wheeled into the operating room.
Although this moment was one of the hardest parts of the whole ordeal, Cheryl said, “we also felt such a peace, because we knew that there was no better place he could be,” her eyes filling with tears.
The hardest year, the best year
As Joshua spent weeks recovering from surgery, the family prepared to add another baby to their growing brood – Cheryl was pregnant with her fourth child.
Then, the baby was diagnosed with a kidney defect in utero.
Just seven weeks after Joshua was released from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the new baby, a little boy named Joseph, was delivered and admitted to Children’s Colorado’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a week.
Although it was a very stressful period of their lives, Mark and Cheryl said it taught their family so much.
Months later at Christmas, when both boys were home from the hospital and doing well, Mark presented Cheryl with a gift she’ll always cherish - a framed photo collage that documented Joshua’s and Joseph’s journeys.
“Sometimes the hardest years turn out to be the best,” read the inscription on the frame.
For this family, thanks to help from Children’s Hospital Colorado, those words couldn’t ring more true.