Young patient makes great strides, is named Columbus marathon ambassador

Trevan McCracken of Findlay shows off his favorite “Cars” toy, Lightning McQueen. The 3-year-old has had three open-heart surgeries and has been chosen to represent Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a patient ambassador during the annual Columbus Marathon in October. (Photo by Randy Roberts)


Three-year-old Trevan McCracken loves “Cars,” trips to the library, playing on his swingset and his brand-new brother, “Baby Jackson.”

But he really, really loves “Cars.”

Visiting him at his Findlay home, it’s hard to believe this chatty, energetic little boy has had three open-heart surgeries already in his short life. Mom Ashley claims he gets tired out quicker than other kids his age, but Trevan’s enthusiasm for putting together puzzles, zooming “Cars”-themed diecast cars across the carpet while enthusiastically announcing each character’s name and giving impromptu tours of his home leaves some newspaper staff begging to differ.

When asked about boring stuff like hospital stays and electrocardiograms, Trevan just shrugs.

Ask him about his upcoming role as a “patient champion” for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Columbus Marathon, however, and Trevan’s ears perk up. First, he gets to have his own decorated tent at one of the race’s 26 mileposts. Asked what theme he’ll be using to deck out his tent, he enthusiastically shouts, “CARS!” (as if anyone had a doubt). And his plan for encouraging each runner who passes the tent, including his dad J.D. and his grandpa and grandma? An encouraging shout of “Run faster!”

Personally, Trevan said he’s not a big runner, preferring instead to go for walks and push his wagon. He participated in last year’s kids’ run, though, and is excited to do so again this year. And, he’s looking forward to slapping the hands of his doctors and nurses as they pass.

Trevan has known many of those doctors his entire life.

He was born with half a heart, a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Doctors identified HLHS in Ashley during her 24-week ultrasound and explained that the congenital heart defect meant the left side of her unborn son’s heart had not formed. The left side of the heart is responsible for pumping blood to the body.

Within four hours of his birth at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Trevan was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Four days later, bands were placed around the pulmonary artery to increase blood flow. Trevan had his first major procedure, called the Glenn procedure, at 4 months old.

“They went in and started replumbing his heart,” Ashley said of the surgery which made it so the right side of her son’s heart now does the work of both ventricles.

After that first surgery, hospital personnel contacted local paramedics to fill them in on Trevan’s condition, should an emergency arise. First responders from Hanco EMS even came to the house to meet Trevan, although luckily their services were never required. (“We have had one emergency room visit, but it wasn’t heart-related,” Ashley said.)

At 2 years old, Trevan had another open-heart surgery, this procedure finishing the previous reconstruction after he and his organs had begun to grow. A heart stent was installed, and Trevan will require constant heart catheterizations as he continues to grow. Somewhere down the line, he may require a heart transplant.

“It kind of just depends on how he’s growing and how he’s thriving,” Ashley said, noting Trevan returns to Columbus every nine months so doctors can perform echocardiograms and electrocardiograms.

During his month-long post-surgery stay as a 2-year-old, Columbus Marathon runners passed by Trevan’s hospital window. His dad, J.D., has participated in the half marathon every year since Trevan’s birth, “so we actually watched J.D. run from the window of the hospital,” Ashley said.

Every year since 2012, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has chosen 24 individual patient champions to cheer on runners from each mile of the marathon. One “Angel Mile” honors those who are no longer lving, and an “Encore Mile” recognizes each patient who has lined the course in the past. Together, they represent the 1.2 million-plus patient visits to the hospital annually.

Since being chosen as a patient champion, Trevan and J.D. got to visit with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drives the Nationwide car, during a hospital meet and greet. They also got to attend a preview screening of “Cars 3.”

Reflecting on all the recent triumphs and on the progress Trevan’s made over the past three years, Ashley said, “you just get so excited.” And, she said he’s growing into a selfless, loving child who often asks how his baby brother is doing and shows empathy for other kids he encounters.

“For a child with half a heart, he’s got a very big heart,” she said.

Signup has begun for both the full and half marathons. Trevan and J.D. are fundraising ahead of the event, and Trevan’s page can be accessed online at

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