The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

for Alivia, thanks

Sign on walker's back says In Honor of Alivia
Sunday, September 11, 2010 —

I went for a walk this morning, with a couple hundred other men, women and children out for a three-mile stroll to raise money for the American Heart Association. My spouse has begun walking, and wanted to mosey along with some of her co-workers, for the fellowship, the exercise, and to raise money to strengthen heart research.

She asked would I like to walk with her, and them. I did.

As is my wont, I shot some pictures along the way — a few of fellow team members, and a couple of “electronic notes” to remind me of things, such as the sign stuck on a man’s back that said, “In honor of Alivia Koontz.”

Who is Alivia Koontz, I wondered.

She’s a seven-year-old from Hagerstown. She has a hypoplastic left heart and hypoplasia of her left lung; in short, half of her system for pumping oxygenated blood through her body is underdeveloped. Her grandpa — the fellow with the sign on his back — told me she has become something of a textbook for doctors. Having one problem or the other is abnormal enough; to have both means she should not still be here.

Until recently, she has been pretty much confined to a wheelchair or a child’s wagon for mobility, but a few months ago, she was able to complete a half-mile run-walk with her classmates.

I could only imagine, as I listened to the story, what it must be like for a seven-year-old whose mind says run and body says, uh-uh! Next year, Grandpa said, she may be along on the Heart Walk.

Right now, medical science has progressed so that she may live to be 30-something. Maybe by the time Alivia is 30, more progress will have been made that can help her along.

I had my first heart attack in this month in 2002. It wasn’t much, as heart attacks go. A friend had one almost the same day, and needed a quadruple bypass. I needed some diet adjustment and exercise.

Advances in medical science have been astounding, just in my lifetime.

And they will become more so, I suspect, thanks to the people, and others like them in other counties, who walked Sunday morning in an act of fellowship and assistance for those who physically couldn’t make it.

Thank You, all who contributed cash to the effort. You know who you are. Alivia and I, and the rest of the folks who are here because research and experimentation have made it possible, appreciate it.


  1. Hello I wanted to let you know I came acrossed your article today and It was nice to read. I am Alivia’s mother and we thank you for getting info out there about children and heart defects.If you ever want more information let me know I will be happyy to share with you. Thank you Angela Koontz

    • John

      December 21, 2010 at 12:37

      Thanks. I hope she’s doing well. I expect I’ll do the walk again next year; maybe I’ll meet her there.

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