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USC surgeon operates on little Darth Vader

Max Page, right, with his brother, Els, at a Children's Hospital Los Angeles press conference (Photo/Alex Vas)

The boy who portrayed a mini Darth Vader in a popular Super Bowl ad is recovering after open-heart surgery on June 14 by renowned USC cardiothoracic surgeon Vaughn Starnes.

Max Page, 7, was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect that prevents adequate oxygenation of the blood. Left untreated, the defect can lead to heart failure. Since birth, Max has had multiple surgeries to repair the valve that connects the heart to the lungs.

“One of the basic problems with Max’s heart and the way it formed, the blood vessel that goes between the heart and lungs was way too small — it was probably 10 percent of the normal size,” said Michael Silka, pediatrics professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-director of The Heart Institute at Keck School-affiliated Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where Page has been treated since he was an infant. “Because of this, it’s like trying to basically breathe through a straw.”

The two-hour surgery implanted a larger, porcine-manufactured valve that is expected to last 10 to 15 years.

“The surgery went very well,” said Starnes, Hastings Distinguished Professor at the Keck School and co-director of The Heart Institute. “We went in to replace his pulmonary valve, which we did without incident.”

During the surgery, Page’s family spent time in a hospital family lounge.

“The next 48 hours are so crucial in Max’s recovery,” said Jennifer Page, the boy’s mother. “We love the outpouring of support that everyone has shown, and the kindness from family, friends and strangers has been tremendous.”

Page, a cast member of The Young and the Restless, serves as a Junior Ambassador for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, speaking to groups and encouraging individuals to support treatment and research to fight pediatric illness.

At a press conference on June 13, Page left a message for other children: “If you use your force and dream big, you can achieve anything. We may be small, but we are mighty.”

Donations can be made to “Every dollar that is given in Max’s honor means so much to us and all the children at this hospital,” his mother said.

USC surgeon operates on little Darth Vader

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