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Kid ‘superman,’ born with rare heart defect, radiates strength

June 7, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
Eleven-year-old Jerry Bruce Hennon was born with a congenital heart disease. His strength and determination have made him a local hero. Emma Kate Woods of Dalton Middle School produced this report as part of our Student Reporting Labs for our series Limitless.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we continue our series Limitless, produced by middle and high school students, looking at people with disabilities dealing with the challenges of everyday life.

Tonight, a remarkable young boy who was born with a heart disease.

The story was produced by our Student Reporting Labs and reporter Emma Kate Woods. She’s an eighth grader at report Dalton Middle School in Georgia.

JERRY BRUCE HENNON, Student, Dalton Middle School: I was born with a hypoplastic left heart, which, it’s very rare, and it’s — you’re born with literally half of heart.

EMMA KATE WOODS: Jerry Bruce Hennon is a happy, easy-going 11-year- old boy who was born with a congenital heart disease.

JERRY BRUCE HENNON: Your heart beats like ba-bup, ba-bup. Mine was that, but ba-bup, ba-bup, ba-bup, twice as fast. And it had to work for left and right. And this hand’s always been weak. It’s getting stronger.

EMMA KATE WOODS: Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a birth defect where the left side of the heart doesn’t form correctly, severely restricting blood flow through the heart.

As a result, the heart cannot pump oxygen-rich blood through the body properly, causing a life-threatening condition. When he was three days old, Jerry Bruce suffered a stroke, leaving his left side partially paralyzed.

In order to live, Jerry Bruce need a heart transplant, which he fortunately received on June 4, 2016, a procedure he knows has changed his life.

JERRY BRUCE HENNON: The transplant, I feel like that’s the greatest and worst possible thing that could ever happen to me.

EMMA KATE WOODS: Jerry Bruce is very close with his family, especially his mother.

JERRY BRUCE HENNON: This bond is the strongest between a mother and a son to ever live. I promise you that.

LISA HENNON, Jerry’s Mother: You know, I don’t know if anybody else with a special-needs child will understand that. You do love all of your children, but it’s just different.

His little classmates are tight and take good care of him, you know? I think they will always be there. And he’s got a good support group in his class.

EMMA KATE WOODS: A student at Westwood Elementary School, his classmates and his fourth grade teacher Ms. Bailey have seen his struggles first hand.

PAQUITA BAILEY, Teacher, Dalton Middle School: He’s had such a tough little life. He’s had to go through so much from birth. So, I think all of the surgeries and things like that he’s had throughout his entire existence on earth made him stronger just as an individual, but he’s still the same little boy. He’s no different.

EMMA KATE WOODS: Jerry Bruce’s strength and determination have made him a local hero, earning the nickname Superman.

MEREDITH DILBECK, Friend: I think he just loves, like, Superman, like, Batman, and all that stuff. Our school has really reflected on that, just him being like Superman and like saving the world and all that.

JERRY BRUCE HENNON: Just the joy that God’s given you is like a chance, because most people don’t get that.

LISA HENNON: You just want your child to live, or that’s — that’s how I felt. And, you know, he could be a rocket scientist. You don’t have to play football to be a man or a successful person.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jerry, we are in awe of you.

And, Emma Kate, you have a future as a reporter.