Last month, Jaime King revealed to fans on social media her now 14-month-old son, Leo Thames, underwent “a major heart surgery” — a time she remembers as “terrifying and traumatic for us as parents, for our family.”
Now King tells PEOPLE her baby boy is “doing amazing,” and the reason she felt compelled to share her family’s story is because she “knew how traumatic the experience was, how much [post-traumatic stress disorder] I had afterwards, and the trauma that I was experiencing before it.”
“It’s because I didn’t know anybody that had gone through it and I didn’t have people to talk to,” says King, who hosted the WEI Beauty Detoxifying Skincare Line luncheon, along with Jamie Chung in Hollywood on Wednesday.
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King — who found out her son had TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries), a “serious but rare heart defect present at birth, in which the two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed,” according to Mayo Clinic — when she was 20 weeks pregnant, remembers being in the intensive care unit when Leo Thames was about to have his open-heart surgery.
“I was wheel-chaired to him every three hours, so I could breastfeed him and take care of him before he went into this huge surgery,” recalls King, who adds Leo Thames had to be a “certain weight to survive the open-heart surgery.”
She continues, “It was a terrifying experience. But thank God for the medicine that we have now.”
So when Leo Thames’ godmother, Taylor Swift, made a tribute gift donation to Cedars-Sinai in honor of him and his first birthday — and asked King if she wanted the donation “private” or “in his name,” the 37-year-old mother of two says, she realized “it would be such a disservice for me to keep it private just because I wanted ‘privacy’ when I knew that the doctors needed to be honored.”
King, who thanked Dr. Alistair Phillips and his entire team at Cedars Sinai, along with her obstetrician, Dr. Randy Harris, and Dr. Silverman, went on to explain that it was just about “honoring what [Leo Thames’] experience was and about honoring these doctors and also, most importantly, on the other hand, honoring all the parents that are going through this.”
King says she doesn’t want people “to feel like they’re going through it alone.”
“I have a voice and I want to use that voice on behalf of my son — and I know that my son would want that. He’s so strong. He’s such a fighter. He’s unbelievable,” she says.
And King says when she finally did share her story, “It was really beautiful.”
“I’ve gotten thousands of letters from people and now I have a real community of people to talk to,” she says.
“I had no reference point and to be able to talk to people [and ask them], ‘Okay, what has your life been like?’ To know that he’s going to lead a happy, healthy, normal life is just unbelievable, and it’s solely because of his will to live and his fighting nature .,, and because of these doctors,” shares King, adding that the family “almost lost him.”
Looking forward, King, who is married to filmmaker Kyle Newman, and her family will be celebrating their other baby boy’s third birthday in a few weeks with an Alice In Wonderland-themed party planned by Jared Eng.
“So he wants [Princess] Ariel to drop by and he wants to paint the roses red,” says King. “I assume that means I’m getting a lot of fake white roses and doing a painting station — and Jared’s bushes are going to be filled with painted kids’ roses.”
She continues: “We’re also going to definitely do something [with Disneyland] because that’s his favorite place and our favorite place.”
— Mariah Haas