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Credit: Shiena McClelland

Doctors said he’d never walk, but this ‘walking miracle’ defies the odds and lands an audition with Disney

An eleven-year-old boy in Southeast Texas has always wanted to be a Disney actor, but his medical conditions have kept him in and out of hospitals time and time again.

But he’s also defied the odds time and time again.

Andrew Thomas, who likes to go by “AJ,” was born with a heart condition called truncus arteriosus type 1 which, according to the CDC, is a rare congenital heart condition in which a single common blood vessel comes out of the heart. AJ also has severe scoliosis.

Credit: Shiena McClelland

Because of his conditions, AJ has spent much of his life in the hospital setting. Doctors told his mother that he would most likely not live past his second birthday. They also told her he’d never walk.

“He has had multiple surgeries,” explained his mother, Shiena McClelland, during an interview. “Three open-heart surgeries, twenty heart catheterizations, two spinal surgeries, a trachea, and a vent.”

Children with AJ’s heart condition usually don’t survive to be older than about two years of age. In fact, according to AJ’s mom, he’s the only child so far that has lived this long with such a condition.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!