ATLANTA - Mason Berry wanted to get it right when he asked his date to prom, but the Henagar, Alabama junior had a problem... A big one. He was miles from home, recovering from back to back open heart surgeries.
"He's been through a lot," said Meghan Croak, a Children's Healthcare of Atlanta nurse on the Cardiac Step-Down Unit. "He went to the OR on March 16 and then back again on the 20."
"It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever done, physically, and emotionally," Mason told FOX 5's Beth Galvin.
Mason was diagnosed as a newborn with rare congenital heart defect, but he had no symptoms, got yearly heart checkups, and his only restriction was he couldn't play sports.
So, in December 2016, hoping to get cleared to play football his senior year, Mason went in for a series of heart tests. Those tests revealed a major blockage in one of his coronary arteries that no one, not even his doctors, had known about.
When you're 17, the prom is a very big deal, and asking your date to the big dance can get complicated. Turns out there is an art to the "promposal," and a Children's Healthcare of Atlanta patient nailed it.
"No fatigue, nothing," Chris Berry, Mason's father, said. "Up until the day he had surgery, no symptoms. So to be told, 'Your kid has no symptoms, but we're going to be doing open heart surgery,' That, that's pretty scary."
Things would get scarier. In the OR, the heart surgeon discovered major blockages in not one, but both coronary arteries, and Mason's life had been on the line.
"I've never felt such a wash of gratefulness and sickness at the same time," said his father. "Like, 'Oh, my gosh it was worse. But oh my gosh they caught it, at the same time.'"
But, then, hours after the first surgery, the valve repair began to fail, and Mason would need another open chest surgery operation to replace his leaking valve with a mechanical one.
"I was just like, "Well, here we go again," Mason said.
"It's just the longest hours or your life," his father said. "You're living from minute to minute to minute. It's just unimaginable."
This time, just before they put him under, Mason asked his surgical team a question.
"I was, like, 'Would y'all mind just praying with me," he said. "And they all stood around me and prayed. That was actually the last thing I remember."
This time, Mason quickly bounced back.
Now, it was time for mission #2: a promposal for Dixie.
"She's sweet, she's kind to me. She loves me," Mason told FOX 5.
Now, with his mom videotaping, and Mason still a little too sore to stand up, Dixie walked into his hospital room. He was holding a sign that read, "I don't think my heart could take you saying no..."
"She just looked at me and I could see her start tearing up," Mason recalled. "I about cried, but I refrained from doing so."
Dixie said yes. No broken hearts here.
Now, the question is how will Mason Berry top this promposal next year?
"Well, I hope it's not with open heart surgery again," he laughed. "I don't know. I'll figure it out."
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