“Little Vader” Undergoes Successful Heart Surgery

Max Page will spend a few days in the hospital before he goes home

Max Page, the 7-year-old actor best known for  playing a "mini-Darth Vader" in a 2011 Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen, underwent successful surgery to replace his pulmonary valve Thursday at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"The surgery today went very well," according to Dr. Vaughn Starnes, who performed the operation and is co-director of The Heart Institute at CHLA.

"The surgery took two hours without complications, and he is recovering very well in cardiac ICU," he said.

Hospital spokesman Lorenzo Benet said Max was expected to remain  hospitalized until early next week. The recovery time for the operation is about six to eight weeks, he said.

Max's mother, Jennifer Page, said it was a nerve-wracking morning, but the surgery apparently went "extremely well."

"The next 48 hours are so crucial in Max's recovery," she said. "We love the outpouring of support that everyone has shown, and the kindness from strangers, family and friends."

Max, who also appears on "The Young and the Restless" and "Prime Suspect," was upbeat when he and his family talked to reporters at the hospital Wednesday.

Asked by his mother what he was looking forward to after the surgery, he said, "Well, I'm looking forward to -- because I love baseball, my dad says I'm gonna be a first-round draft pick."

Max was born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. Doctors said the valve-replacement surgery was something that has long been anticipated -- it was just a matter of time.

Starnes said efforts had been made to preserve Max's pulmonary valve, but it deteriorated over time.

"It has not grown very well so it's creating a problem for the heart to empty out into the pulmonary arteries,'' Starnes said.

Jennifer Page said her son was frightened at first but knew the operation was inevitable.

"He took time to cry, he took time to be scared and then he really jumped on board and was like, 'Let's just figure out what I can do and let's  just do that,'" she said.

Max has been treated at the hospital since he was an infant. He is now an official "junior ambassador" for the hospital, speaking to groups and helping raise money for pediatric research and treatments. He has also visited Washington, D.C., to help oppose cuts to Medicaid.

His family is encouraging people to make donations to the hospital's Children's Fund in Max's name.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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