GULFPORT, MS - The fact that 6-year-old Asher Griffin from Gulfport was born with a heart defect is not that that unusual. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting eight out of every 1,000 newborns.
What makes his story so remarkable is the way he and his family have chosen to deal with the life changing event. It's a story of hope and courage that started the day Asher was born.
"The doctor came in and said there was nothing they could do for Asher and he was going to die," said Scott Griffin, who thought he might lose his wife Anna, and his newborn son.
But after a very close call, they both survived. The bright little boy has come a long way since he arrived in the world.
"He has had three open heart surgeries and five heart caths to date," said Anna.
Although Asher is full of life, his battle is far from over. There is no cure for the rare type of congenital heart defect he was born with, tetrology of fallot. The defect is a result of a condition caused by a combination of four heart defects.
Because his case severe, Asher will require multiple surgeries and interventions throughout his life.
"You have to grieve because your life is different than it was before. You have a special needs child and that changes everything," said Anna. "We decided at that point, are we going to be better or are we going to become bitter. You also have to learn not to sweat the small stuff."
Not sweating the small stuff is important not only for them, but for their two older sons; McGwire and Hallel.
"I think at different stages of their life you have to sit down and talk to them about it and say you know this is our life, and you can make it better or you can become angry about it, but this is what has happened," noted Anna.
The family knows it will be a life long challenge, but they've learned to take one day at a time, enjoying the special moments, and focusing on the positive.
"We focus on today and the milestones. He's already accomplished more than they ever thought he would; he has a brain injury because of a lack of oxygen at birth," said Anna.
Doctors told the Griffins he might never talk or walk but Asher continues to beat the odds. He has tons of energy, and is always ready to dart out the door to the back yard.
All of his major surgeries and procedures are performed at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Doctors are hopeful Asher won't need surgery again until he's at least 10 years old. In the meantime, they make time for plenty of family fun.
"We just trust that God has got a plan, and we can find purpose in our pain as we walk through this and put our trust in Him," said Anna.
But, that doesn't mean it's not hard.
"You don't practice this. You don't get a booklet on how to deal with a child like this," said Scott.
Anna says they couldn't do it without the support of family and friends, and each other.
"When you don't walk through it alone it makes a a whole lot of difference in how you walk through it," she said.
The joy Asher brings to their lives makes it easier to handle; despite whatever may come their way in the future.
"I'm realistic that I know it's a life long challenge and I believe Asher will be a better person because of it and we're going to be better because of it," said Anna.