Superbowl Ad Star, ‘Mini Darth Vader,’ Puts a Spotlight on Heart

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One of the more endearing commercials to emerge from the slate of Superbowl ads earlier this year featured a  pint-sized Darth Vader who surprised himself by starting up a Volkswagon with a wave of his hand. Now the boy behind the mask is taking on a different kind of role: health care activist.

As Sanjay Gupta reported last night on CNN, 6-year-old actor Max Page has a rare congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot that has required him to receive three different pacemakers in his young life, as well as eight major operations to correct other complications.

And while Page has been able to lead a fairly typical lifestyle for a child his age (medical appointments and national ad campaigns notwithstanding), he and his family know how lucky they are to receive the kind of highly sub-specialized medical attention he requires. Not just any hospital — not even any children’s hospital — can provide the care. In fact, his doctor, a pediatric electro-physiologist is one of only 100 such sub-specialists in the country.

And that’s the problem: there are just 56 children’s hospitals in the United States. “We represent just 1% of all the hospitals in the United States, but we are responsible for training over 40% of all the pediatricians and 45% of all the pediatric specialists who take care of the kids,” says Robert Adler, vice chair of pediatrics for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles in the video. His graduate program may be a casualty of budget cuts and because of this, the Pages are headed to Washington to plead for continued funding.

Watch the full story below, or read an accompanying piece from Page’s mother Jennifer on how she and her husband first learned about their son’s condition and the way they cope.

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