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Former OSU Quarterback Brings Heart Doctors To OK

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Surgeon Harold Burkhart came to OK from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Surgeon Harold Burkhart came to OK from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Oklahoma City, OK -

Now, with the help of one of Oklahoma's Own, children across the state needing heart surgery won't have to leave Oklahoma for treatment.

Former OSU Quarterback, Brandon Weeden, is teaming with OU Children's Hospital to make it happen.

Weeden said when he saw the struggles his friends' son were going through, in not having a local pediatric heart surgeon, he immediately jumped in to help.

Gavin Kuykendall, like any other 7-year-old spent Friday making Valentines. He drew hearts on a card only months after his fourth heart surgery since being born with a rare heart disease, an underdeveloped left ventricle, known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

"It was an emotional burden, just dealing with the surgery and just knowing that we wouldn't get to be with all of our family and friends during a really difficult time," Gavin's mother, Faith Kuykendall, said.

"It's very hard, and we were blessed with a good family support that helped us to get there financially and all of those things," said Faith. "I worried more about the other kids in Oklahoma who didn't have that support."

The family had to travel all the way to San Diego, California for Gavin's operations since there was not a pediatric heart surgeon in Oklahoma, until now. Gavin's family teamed with their famous friend NFL's Brandon Weeden to help bring a heart surgeon to OU Children's Hospital.

"Well Brandon did a lot for me," said Gavin. "And I liked it because he's really nice; he's my best friend."

Brandon helped bring Surgeon Harold Burkhart from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

"It's a big deal for the kids and the families of Oklahoma, not just because of me but because of the whole team and the whole group that we have assembled," Dr. Burkhart, who's been at the Children's Hospital for a month and already performing multiple surgeries, said.

"At this day and age, it was surprising that they had to be sending kids out of state, and given the volume and population of the state, I think this will be one of the premier pediatric heart surgery centers in the country," Burkhart added.

Brandon said it's exciting to be in a position to help. He said he has been working with Kathy McCracken of the Children's Hospital Foundation for a couple years to create a plan.

"I'm so loyal to the state of Oklahoma, I grew up here, I love it and just love this place and to have that security to have those families not have to leave the state is our number one goal," Weedon, who resides in Stillwater with his wife Melanie during the off season, said.

The Weeden's are expecting their first child in July. In the meantime, Weedon said his number one fan is Gavin.

"I get choked up; I don't know what it is. I can't look at him. If I look at him, I'll definitely cry," said Weedon. "He's just my little buddy."

"As a guy like myself, I have a lot of respect for him, and I wanted to help as much as I could," Weedon added.

Weeden and the Children's Hospital hope to raise a $1 million endowment in pediatric cardiac surgery for research to help bring more doctors on board and care for more children in need.

Click here to learn more about the Children's Heart Center or how you can help.

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