Nicole is the mother of twins—Julianna and Jacob—who were born five weeks early on June 3, 2004. Jacob Ryan Wells was born with a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. With this CCHD, the left side of Jake’s heart–including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve—was underdeveloped.
Since birth, Jake went through six open-heart surgeries, a few medi-flight helicopter rides to Stanford, a few gastrointestinal surgeries, as well as surgeries that were experimental and hadn’t quite been FDA approved.
His little, brave life endured much triumph, pain, trials and struggles. Through it all, and during the long hospital stays, he had such a strong spirit, always having a smile on his face. He was the happiest little boy you could ever know, with only half a heart, his mom says.
Sadly, Jacob lost his battle to his heart disease on April 26, 2011, at the young age of six years old after having complications from another corrective heart surgery.
Since Jacob’s passing, Nicole has been an active supporter of the American Heart Association, raising funds for Heart Walk and sharing her son’s story to help pass newborn heart screening (pulse oximetry) legislation in California. She and Jacob’s father, Bryan, have been involved with the San Joaquin Heart Walk since 2011 and formed the team “Jacob’s Heart” in his memory.
“Jacob was such a true inspiration to so many people and touched so many hearts during his short little life,” said Nicole. “My intent is to keep Jacob’s memory alive and make ‘Jacob’s Heart’ a recognizable icon in our community. My hope is that being involved in raising funds for the American Heart Association will help make a difference.”
Nicole and her family host an annual shrimp and pasta feed and the Jacob’s Heart Memorial Golf Tournament to raise money for the Heart Walk. In total, the team has raised more than $52,000 since its inception.
“My son, Jacob, had such a huge spirit which has impacted me and so many others,” said Bryan. “I know he is looking down on us and smiling.”
Julianna, now 11, helps with the fundraising. She got her elementary school to take part in Jump Rope For Heart using the slogan “Jump For Jacob.”
“She [Julianna] had shirts made for all the kids. It was really heartwarming” Nicole said. “Jacob was our hero on earth, and he is now our angel in heaven.”
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