Mephis and his brother

Memphis' story: Hypoplastic left heart syndrome

“If it wasn’t for research, Memphis wouldn’t be here.” - Craig Jackson, father of Memphis age 6.

Memphis is a little boy full of life and energy. It’s hard to believe that six years ago he was that baby on the operating table, with his chest wide open and his heart exposed.

Mum kissing Memphis on the forehead after another surgery

Memphis was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a very serious congenital heart disease that’s diagnosed when the left side of a baby’s heart is underdeveloped and unable to pump blood efficiently.

HLHS has meant Memphis has had four open-heart surgeries in his young life – the first when he was just 24 hours old.

“It was a huge shock,” his mother, Tashan said. “They weren’t even sure if he was going to survive the surgery.

Tashan’s fears were well founded. Tragically, congenital heart disease is the biggest killer of children under five in Australia, and is unfortunately the most common form of birth defect.

Thankfully Memphis survived his first operation. But we still don’t know the cause of HLHS, and can’t predict which babies will develop this devastating disease.

At three-months-old, Memphis spent his first Christmas in hospital. The Jackson family decorated his cot and celebrated as best they could as Memphis underwent his second and third open-heart operations. When young Memphis finally went home, he was very frail, his heart still did not have the capacity to pump oxygenated blood around his body at a normal rate.

Memphis with his parents and younger brother
“When he was a baby, he wouldn’t cry for long because he would just go blue,” says Tashan. “Later when he started to walk it wasn’t very far… He’d walk from one end of the house to the other and he would be puffed. He’d have to sit down and rest.”

In 2014 Memphis had a successful surgery that’s given him a new lease on life and more energy than he’s ever had before. “He’s a different kid,” laughs his dad, Craig. “He started soccer club this year- and he runs everywhere!”

“For Christmas, we used to buy him things that didn’t require a lot of exertion,” adds Craig. “This year we’ll get him a bike.”

It’s a special Christmas for the whole family, including Memphis’ devoted younger brother, Cayless, who’s looking forward to some serious summer fun with his brother. “They’re very close,” beams Tashan. “They’ve got a very good bond.”

While Memphis is well today, the family’s journey with HLHS is not over. As they face an uncertain future, they look to research and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute for hope.

“The research they’re doing helps us think that he’s got an even better chance of a longer life, and living as long as of the rest of us,” says Tashan. “Today, we’re just thankful he’s here.”

Craig couldn’t agree more. “He was our gift,” he smiles. “He was meant to be here."

You can help kids like Memphis by supporting vital discoveries at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years