2-Year-old boy comes home after third open-heart surgery

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Sitting quietly in one of the big, black seats in Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport on Wednesday night is wispy 7-year-old Charlie Ortiz.

“What are you going to tell them?” she is asked.
“I missed you,” she answers.

Charlie is waiting for her family to come home.

“It says ‘Welcome home Brody,’ " she explains as she reads the bright-colored sign she is holding with pictures of herself and her 2-year-old brother.

And then she looks up and sees them. Her large extended family starts cheering as her mom, dad and brother, Brody –- who has just survived his third open-heart surgery -- race past security and scoop her up.
Brody’s mom, Elissa Ortiz, has tears in her eyes as she says, “Just been gone for so long and been away from my little girl. I'm so happy to be home. So happy to be home.”

Elissa says Brody was born with HLHS, basically with half a heart.

By the time he was 6 months old, he had already had two open-heart surgeries at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

But this summer, his main valve started to fail. The family flew to Philadelphia so Brody could have a mechanical valve put in at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

When they left Mesa in June, they thought they would only be gone for two weeks.

“He had a surgery on the 17th of June and it failed. A week later, they had to replace the valve, but he was so sick for that week that his little heart gave out.”

Brody’s parents say he came out of surgery on life support. For seven days they watched their son have machines run his body. The nurses told them it was unlikely he would ever come off life support.

"It's the worst feeling you can ever feel, but you remain positive and you pray. And I went in there and he was still able to open his eyes,” his dad, Seth Ringenbach, remembers.

But then Brody surprised everyone and turned the corner.

“He is definitely a huge inspiration to see him go through that and come out on top," his dad says with pride. “Incredibly proud of him. He is a such a strong little fighter.”

His mom beams and adds, “My son is amazing! He has proven everyone wrong. He is a miracle!”

Charlie can’t stop being by her brother’s side, giving him kisses and hugs.

Brody will have to be closely monitored at his Mesa home.

His mom, who blogs at www.brodyburkringenbach.blogspot.com, says once the mechanical valve that is running his half heart starts to show signs of failure, he will go on a transplant list. She says that could happen next week or in ten years.

So for now, they have a plan to keep the little boy his doctors call the "Mohawk Warrior” happy and healthy.

“Just gonna live every day with him and love him and just enjoy life,” Elissa says.

And when asked why he sports a mohawk, she says, “Oh, he was born with these cowlicks and he just has a mohawk, and everybody loves him. He had like the best hair at the hospital. All the doctors loved him."

Click here to donate to Brody.