The fact that two-and-a-half-year-old Mason Busey is laughing, running and mugging for the nearest camera is nothing short of a miracle.
When she was 20 weeks along, Mason's mother, Meagan, went in for what she thought was a routine ultrasound. In fact, her husband, Cory, stayed home with their older son, Colby, because they didn't expect anything out of the ordinary.
Instead, Meagan says, it was a day that rocked their world. The ultrasound shows Mason had a fluid buildup on his neck called a cystic hygroma, which could be life-threatening. In addition, he had atrioventricular septal defect. Instead of being divided by chambers and valves, his heart had not developed.
"They gave us a less than three percent chance he'd survive the pregnancy," Meagan said. "We went to planning a funeral instead of a birth."
Meagan was closely monitored in the weeks that followed, with doctor visits three to five times a week. Against all odds, instead of sliding downhill, Mason's potentially fatal hygroma resolved itself. Then, at 32 weeks, the Buseys saw pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Goertz of KU Medical Center for the first time. He told them not only would Mason be born, but he likely would be able to wait several months before needing heart surgery.
"It just astounded us," Meagan said.
At 34 weeks, Mason was born with Down's Syndrome - and that undeveloped heart.
Even though Mason was alive, Dr. Goertz cautioned the condition does not heal itself. He says the defect requires surgery to close holes and divide the common valve into two. Without it, he says, pressure backs up in the small vessels and lungs. As the child grows into teenage years, their color would become bluer and their physical activity would be severely limited.
A person with the condition untreated, Dr. Goertz says, likely won't live past their 20s.
The Buseys were warned that Mason would go into heart failure. It happened when he was five weeks old. Doctors kept adjusting his medications so he could get as big and strong as possible.
At five-months old, Meagan and Cory handed their little boy over for surgery.
"It was rough," Cory said. "You go into it hoping for the best but you always know in the back of your mind that something bad could happen and he might not make it."
Despite being hooked to a tower of machines, Meagan and Cory say the difference after surgery was immediate. Both were thrilled to see his skin color was pink, rather than the grayish, mottled tones it had been from poor circulation.
After 26 days and a bout with pneumonia, Mason headed home.
It's been full steam ahead ever since.
"It has been an amazing journey to see all he's accomplished," Meagan said. "All that he is is a miracle."
Cory agrees. When it comes to the future, he says he believes Mason can do anything he wants to do.
The Buseys will share their story at the American Heart Association's annual fundraising gala, February 22nd at Topeka's Capitol Plaza Hotel.