Justin seemed perfectly healthy, but inside his body a silent, life-threatening disease had taken hold. The Arizona teen was at a routine checkup to clear him for football season when his pediatrician noticed that his blood pressure was extremely high — unusual for a 14-year-old. A slew of tests eventually uncovered a rare, but troubling diagnosis: midaortic syndrome.
In this condition, the middle portion of the aorta (the heart's largest blood vessel) that runs through the chest and abdomen becomes narrow. This can lead to insufficient blood flow in the chest, abdomen and lower limbs and can damage the kidneys and other organs. Suddenly, the family's main concern had moved from getting Justin on the field to getting him well.
Justin's pediatrician had trained at Boston Children's Hospital and referred him to the hospital's Midaortic Syndrome and Renovascular Hypertension Program. As he lay on the operating table, Dr. Heung Bae Kim decided to perform a novel, first-of-its-kind surgery: Rather than relying on prosthetic material to create a graft to bypass the diseased aorta, he would use Justin's own mesenteric arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the intestines).
The groundbreaking procedure — now called Mesenteric Artery Growth to Improve Circulation (MAGIC) and offered to all eligible patients — was a success. The graft grew, and so did Justin. Four years later, he's returned to sports, is looking forward to starting college and is a competitive rodeo star.