Not expected to survive infancy, Wilson man with heart condition beats the odds and pays it forward

North Carolina

WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A Wilson man born with a heart condition so severe he was never expected to see his first birthday is not only surviving but using his experience to help others facing similar challenges.

Brad Worrell knows what it means to beat the odds.

“I wasn’t supposed to live past 3 months old,” he explained. “I went to San Francisco, California and had an emergency experimental 13-hour open-heart surgery the day I turned 3 months old.”

His childhood was filled with operations and uncertainty.

“The smallest thing, like a little common cold, would put me in the hospital,” Worrell said. “I was isolated a lot and even when I was around other kids, I still felt severely isolated.

“Growing up in school, I wasn’t Brad. I was ‘Brad, the kid with the heart condition’ or ‘Brad the kid with the huge scar down his chest.”

Worrell wasn’t thinking about his heart condition when in 2013, thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation, he got to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game.

It inspired him years later to propose to his girlfriend at another Red Sox game. It was a moment many in Worrell’s life never dared to imagine when he was first born and was so sick.

Now that he’s healthier, he isn’t taking a single moment for granted.

“Here I am, trying to make a difference in the world,” he said.

He understands the struggles so many people with medical conditions and disabilities experience, and he’s working to bring them together through a Facebook page and website called “Playing for Purpose.”

“It’s all about support, encouragement, advice,” he explained. “I want to pay it forward. That’s the biggest thing for me. I really want to be that support system that I desperately needed growing up.”

For Worrell, it isn’t just about beating the odds, it’s about helping others believe they can too.

“You’ve got to make the best of everything you can because there is a light on the other side,” he said. “You can take a tough situation and turn it into something amazing.”

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