Kristin Harmel
May 24, 2010 12:00 PM

Cardiothoracic surgeon Jacob DeLaRosa routinely jumps into life-or-death situations. But the call he got to operate on a 3-month-old with heart failure was unlike anything he’d come across before.

The patient: Max, a 1.2-lb. Yorkshire terrier pup. His owner, Tristan Moulton, 6, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease that has left him in a wheelchair, requiring 24-hour care; he’s defied doctors’ predictions he wouldn’t live past 4. His parents, Travis and Melissa, of Victor, Idaho, watched their son’s eyes light up as he picked out Max-the runt of the litter-in April. “They bonded at first sight,” Melissa says.

But no sooner had they brought Max home than a vet discovered the pup had a potentially fatal heart defect. The vet-Travis’ cousin Jason Moulton-reached out through a mutual contact to DeLaRosa, 42, chief of cardiac surgery at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho, for advice on how to perform the complex corrective surgery. And though he’d never before operated on a canine, “when I heard the story I said, ‘I’d love to come down and help,’ ” DeLaRosa says. “For a boy who’d come so far, I wanted to make sure this puppy lived.”

On April 15 DeLaRosa performed the hour-long surgery in Moulton’s clinic for free. Today Max is back to barking and fetching and is expected to have a normal Yorkie lifespan of 12 or more years. “Tristan and Max, they’ve both beaten the odds,” Melissa says. “They’re two little miracles.”


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