November 20, 2020
Local heart care means the world to kids like Braxtyn Bennett.
Braxtyn may look like a typical 11-year-old who loves to show off her dance moves on TikTok. You’d never know she relies on a pacemaker for every heartbeat.
“She is very independent, sassy, talkative and outgoing,” Braxtyn’s mom, Carrie Bennett, said. “She loves to help others. God made her heart a little different, but it’s still capable of holding all the happiness and love in the world.”
For the first eight years of her life, Braxtyn was completely healthy. Then she started complaining of chest pains. Carrie didn’t think anything of it at first. Braxtyn would say her chest hurt but after a few minutes, she would be back outside doing cartwheels on the lawn.
Just to be safe, Carrie took Braxtyn to their local doctor. After running a couple tests, something clearly wasn’t right. Braxtyn’s resting heartbeat was just 36 beats per minute, less than half the average for kids her age.
Braxtyn’s family rushed her to Sanford Fargo, where they met pediatric cardiologist Dr. Justin Horner. Soon Braxtyn was diagnosed with complete heart block, a condition where the heart’s electrical signal can’t pass normally. She required immediate treatment and a pacemaker to regulate her heartbeat.
“We were scared, shocked and in denial,” Carrie said. “I worried what her quality of life would be like moving forward.”
Those fears subsided after Braxtyn recovered from heart surgery and got used to living with her pacemaker, nicknamed Phil.
Braxtyn will need a pacemaker for the rest of her life, but with expert care, she can be just like any other kid her age. Even though he is based in Fargo, Dr. Horner routinely travels to Sanford Bismarck to treat patients like Braxtyn, closer to her family’s home in Minot.
“Braxtyn absolutely adores him,” Carrie said. “He has been wonderful, and she loves going to her appointments with Dr. Horner.”
Braxtyn’s pacemaker doesn’t stop her from playing basketball, volleyball and tennis, even though she gets tired more quickly than she used to. She has also accepted the few things she can’t do, like lay on her belly where her pacemaker is located.
“By looking at her, you wouldn’t have any idea she has a pacemaker,” Carrie said. “She’s just like any other child on the playground or playing a sport. Unless you were told, you would never be able to pick out that she has a pacemaker.”
As you give thanks for all the blessings in your own life, please consider also giving more families strength and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
100% of every gift will help support expert local heart care including expanding services for patients of all ages, investing in the latest technology and equipment and enhancing outreach programs across the region.
Visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/holidays to make your first and most important gift of the season.