Ohio baby born with half a heart celebrates his 2nd Valentine's Day

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NEW KNOXVILLE, Ohio -- A 17-month-old baby and his family are not only observing Valentine's Day and Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, they are celebrating life.

Allen Schoenlein was born with half of his heart. The Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome leaves his body without the heart's left pumping chambers. Through a series of circumstances and surgeries he now survives and thrives.

When Allen's mother Kelly Schoenlein was 38 weeks pregnant she attended the funeral of her 2-month-old niece.

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"Mya was beautiful," said Kelly, as she described the infant suffered a serious heart complication. "It was so hard for her to go."

The loss prompted Kelly to undergo testing of her own. Her husband Nick Schoenlein said they hoped it would be an uneventful fetal echo heart test. They wanted to hear a good bill of health for their unborn baby boy.

"Allen was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome," said Nick. "We were speechless."

When Allen was born on September 11, 2017 doctors were ready. He was immediately given critical care. Kelly said important plans for Allen were in place due to the painful loss of her niece.

"Her experience was scary but she saved his life and we're grateful for that," said Kelly. "Last Valentine's Day Allen was 5 months old. He was actually scheduled for a big, major surgery on Valentine's Day. It got pushed for a cold."

2019 Valentine's Day stands as the second Allen will celebrate. His family says every holiday and experience is embraced. They do not take a thing for granted, including the honor of being recognized as the 2019 Nationwide Children's Hospital Kinder Key Heart Warrior.

"We were surprised and so happy. Allen is able to help spread the word about heart issues," said Kelly. Kinder Key is an organization dedicated to supporting The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s. Begun in 1954, Kinder Key's members have raised about $3 million used to provide health care to all children suffering heart disease, regardless of their ability to pay.

It has been a hard road for the Schoenlein family with multiple surgeries, but baby Allen has recovered quickly each time and continues to grow. He is now 17 months old. His parents admit he is adventurous and ornery. They say he has a big personality that is built for beating the odds and a heart filled with passion.

"He may have a small heart, but he has the most love of anybody you'll meet," said Kelly.

Learn more about Kinder Keys Heart Warriors here.