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Much Love for Moxie


A local girl in need of heart surgery has managed to tug on the heart strings of many people in the Bolivar area. The community and neighboring areas are rallying around nine-year-old Moxie Garrison to raise awareness and funds to help her get the care she needs.

Moxie Garrison was born with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that prevents proteins from making strong, elastic connective tissue. Those affected by Marfan syndrome may experience complications in their vision and vascular health. As for Moxie, she has been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm (an abnormal, ballooning area in the aorta) and valve regurgitation (a condition where the heart valve doesn't close completely, causing the backward leakage of blood). She also has a near-sightedness and dislocated lenses, and after several eye surgeries, she has been left with a disconnected retina and blindness in her right eye.

Her parents Don and Marketa Garrison are asking for support at this time as she is due for open heart surgery in London, likely scheduling the procedure for sometime next month.

“She does pretty well. She gets around fine and all that,” Don Garrison says. It doesn’t affect her cognitively. She is very intelligent and does very well in school — amazingly, good in school for no better than she can see.”

Moxie was around the age of two when she was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, and ever since then, she has had an echocardiogram every six months to monitor the aneurysm and the effect it has her heart health. Over time, the aneurysm has enlarged, and at this point, it has become apparent to several cardiac surgeons that corrective surgery will need to be done.

“We’ve obviously been aware of this for a long time. And her mother and I have done a lot of research, and the procedure that we feel would be best for Moxie is regretfully not done here in the United States yet. They thought that they would have that approved by now,” Moxie’s father states.

Due to their research, the family found that the ideal procedure for their young daughter is the Personalized External Aortic Root Support (PEARS) surgery, which has been performed successfully in Europe for around 19 years now. In the PEARS surgery, doctors would put an external support around the aneurysm and would not require her heart to be stopped in order to operate, unlike the procedures offered in the United States where the aneurysm would be removed and replaced with a synthetic artery.

The family has had several online video calls with leading cardiac surgeons, and while Moxie is a good candidate for the PEARS surgery, the procedure comes with a large price tag, not to mention the cost of the trip to Europe itself. The Garrisons’ estimated six-week stay in London will necessitate the purchase of plane tickets, hotel accommodations, and other expenditures. And while Moxie’s parents both have full-time jobs with health insurance benefits, their insurance doesn’t cover the cost of surgeries outside the United States.

“Unfortunately, they also require the full payment [for surgery] up front, which is like £70,000, but it actually correlates to about $85,000. So basically we‘ve got to try to raise money to get that done.”

Even though Moxie has a huge surgery looming ahead of her, she is excited to visit London. Don Garrison describes his daughter as a dinosaur-loving, smart, and playful kid with a magnetic personality.

“She’s an amazing person," he says. "She’s like this old soul, because she says some things that are so far beyond her years. And, yeah, just extremely intelligent. It’s funny how everybody loves her. It’s funny at school…it seems like when I’m taking her to school and whatnot, just all her classmates are like, ‘Moxie!’ She just has that draw. She is very outgoing, but very tenderhearted too. She’s just a really, really special little girl.”

To show support and encouragement for Moxie, Bolivar Schools will honor the third-grader by designating this upcoming school week as DinoMox Week, a spirit week with a fun theme for each school day.

Overwhelmed with the response of the community, Don and Marketa Garrison wish to express their gratitude for the love, prayers, donations, and other ways that people have reached out to them to bring a little more light in their lives.

“We have been getting some really good support. We really have. I can’t say enough,” Don Garrison says.

The community is invited to a charitable, drive-thru event to support Moxie and her family. The event will take place at Dunnegan Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 18.

To help provide funds for Moxie’s heart surgery, the public can make a donation to Don Garrison or Marketa Garrison (or both) on their GoFundMe account or at the Bank of Missouri in Bolivar. The family is also asking for prayers at this time.


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