LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Fourteen-year-old Garrett Caldarelli doesn't get discouraged easily.
Watching Garrett hang out with his friends at Long Beach Middle School, you'd never guess that he has a serious heart condition.
The Long Beach teen made his way back on the soccer field this school year; after a second open heart surgery had sidelined him for five years. His mom Kerry Caldarelli says that's what Garrett wants.
"It's just normal life for him. So, he smiles and goes on. He really does have a good attitude about it," said Kerry.
Garrett's good attitude has carried him through a lifetime of fighting to survive a life threatening heart condition he was born with, Shones Complex. The defects have led to two open heart procedures; one at sixteen months and another at nine years old.
"And then at nine, the second open heart surgery left him pacemaker dependent," added Kerry.
Once he had the pacemaker implanted after that second open heart surgery, doctors told Garrett he could no longer play soccer. Garrett says it was a tough pill to swallow.
"Soccer is my life. I love to do it," said the teenager.
His love for soccer started while watching his older sisters play. However, five years after giving up the sport he loved, everything changed.
In a twist of fate, Garrett is now playing soccer again, after having a second pacemaker implanted in 2015; this time in his chest wall rather than his abdominal area. Kerry says the pacemaker that was supposed to last until he was eighteen was wearing out. He needed a new one at age thirteen, and the new location in the chest was apparently a safer location for playing sports.
Kerry says one of the first questions he asked his doctor after surgery was whether he could play soccer again.
"He said if you can pass the stress test you can play, and he was determined. And it has meant the world to him," noted Kerry.
For Garrett, it's a dream come true.
"It has been amazing. I love it," said Garrett.
Soccer coach Patrick Bennett says Garrett getting back out on the field sends an important message.
"It shows if you work hard you can overcome just about anything," said Bennett.
But, he does have to take precautions. Garrett wears protective padding over his pacemaker during games called a Pace Guard. Even so, his mom still worries.
"When he goes down, or is tackled, it is more nerve wracking. You just worry something will happen, but you can't hold him back. He really wants to play," said Kerry.
And even though he tires more easily than the other players, and has to sit out more because of his condition, the soccer field is exactly where Garrett wants to be, adding, "I wouldn't give it up for the world. It's awesome."
The Caldarelli's know they may have more battles ahead, but they're thankful for every day. Kerry feels Garrett can handle whatever challenge comes his way.
"He's my hero and I say that constantly. He has braved every bit of it with a smile on his face and he takes every challenge as it comes."