WICHITA, KS – Ten year old Ashlyn Alumbaugh is just like any other fourth grade girl; wide-eyed and full of energy.
But, there is another adjective that may best describe her.
When she was just seven years old, Ashlyn was diagnosed with a heart condition known as Atrial Septum Defect. According to the American Heart Association, the defect allows oxygen-rich blood to leak into the oxygen-poor areas of the heart. This happens in the septum (walls) separating the top two chambers of the heart.
After several attempts at using medications and heart monitors to remedy and keep up with the condition, doctors concluded the initial hole in her heart was extremely large in size and found three additional holes in the walls.
Due to the size of the first hole and anatomy of her heart being so damaged with the additional holes, Ashlyn was not a candidate for the less invasive catheter procedure, and would need open heart surgery to repair her heart.
At the age of eight, she endured an eight-hour open heart surgery procedure. In a testament to her unbelievable will and bravery, Ashlyn was back at school less than two months after the procedure.
“She’s bounced back and now you wouldn’t even know it,” says Ashlyn’s dad, James.
The Thunder named Ashlyn as their honorary captain for tonight’s #GORedICT game, where they will take on the Colorado Eagles at INTRUST Bank Arena.
“When I first heard about the story, it was really cool to hear somebody her age deal with the adversity and fight through it. Now she is living a full and healthy life,” says Jason Mals, director of communications with the team.
Ashlyn is happier and healthier than ever and no longer has any restrictions, which means it frees up time for her to do her favorite activity, gymnastics.
Earlier today, she attended the team’s morning skate and watched it from the bench. She got to meet several players, plus Thunder head coach Kevin McClelland. The organization also gave her a team-signed stick and special jersey with her last name on it.
“It’s neat. After what she went though, it’s neat for her to give back and raise awareness,” James said of the experience.
“We are real excited to have her,” Mals said. “She has a huge smile on her face and brings a light to the room.”
The team will wear special jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game. Proceeds from the live jersey auction will go to the American Heart Association.
The American Heart Association helps fund more research on children’s heart diseases than any organization outside the federal government. Congenital Heart Defects are the number one birth defect among children in the US, with more than 36,000 babies impacted each year.
“Ashlyn stands as a reminder that congenital heart defects can happen to any one, at any age,” says Angela Breer, Communications Director with the American Heart Association.
This is the third time the Thunder and American Heart Association have put on a Go Red game at INTRUST Bank Arena. The event has drawn the two of the three largest crowds in franchise history. In February 2012, 13,168 fans flocked to the arena, which is the second largest crowd in franchise history. Last year’s Go Red game drew 10,490 fans.