Collierville boy, 6, undergoes open heart surgery

COLLIERVILLE, TN (WMC) - A 6-year-old is on the road to recovery after open heart surgery, and a simple test at school could be the reason he is alive today.

Sawyer McDowell is a 6-year-old with a lot of life experience under his belt.

He's a big brother, a gifted flag football player, and he's recovering from open heart surgery. He calls the scar left behind a "shark bite."

"One time when we were going to the doctor and he said, 'Alright Sawyer, you've got to get your shark bite checked,'" Sawyer said.

Right before Thanksgiving last year, a school nurse did a health screening for students and noticed Sawyer's blood pressure was extremely high for someone his age and size.

Brandi and David McDowell found themselves in the office of a pediatric cardiologist December 6.

"That was the day that we found he had a Coarctation to the aorta and had to have surgery to repair it," Brandi said.

The congenital heart disease had slipped by under the radar for years.

After moving from Tuscaloosa to Collierville just months before, the McDowells were preparing to send their little boy into surgery.

"He knew he had a leak in his heart and he asked if they were going to fix the leak in his heart," Brandi said.

But it was Sawyer's reaction that inspired them.

"Just the way he's responded to all this, I mean it's kind of like hey I got this, we got it dad," David said. "Let's do this thing and get over with it and we're back at it."

Now, Sawyer has a full life ahead of him, and the McDowells are spreading awareness to other parents, encouraging them to take health screenings seriously and don't be afraid to follow through.

"We never would've known," Brandi said. "He had a 6-year checkup in September and his blood pressure was fine so here we are in November it's 168 over 88."

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