Kingston and parents, Marcus and Elizabeth
Kingston and parents, Marcus and Elizabeth
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Kingston Murriel

Kingston Murriel’s vocabulary is still growing, but there’s one key phrase the animated three-year-old has down pat.

“I’m okay!” Kingston says with a 1,000-watt smile. “I’m okay!”

The motivation behind Kingston’s catch phrase is a life-threatening congenital heart condition. Kingston has undergone multiple surgeries, the first when he was just five days old, and has made weekly and sometimes twice-weekly visits to the outpatient clinics at Children’s of Mississippi ever since. Kingston has been responding to the question, “How do you feel?” every day since he could speak.

A routine ultrasound conducted a few weeks before he was born revealed that Kingston suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant his left heart ventricle did not grow in the womb. As few as 20 years ago, the diagnosis would have left no hope. Thanks to medical advances, Kingston had a chance at survival, but the condition would require multiple, high-risk heart surgeries. Kingston’s stunned parents, Elizabeth Foster and Marcus Murriel, were referred to the Heart Center at Children’s of Mississippi, but prior to their appointment, Elizabeth made what she describes as “the mistake of doing research on the internet.”

“I thought we were going to have to move to Washington, D.C., or maybe to Florida, because it looked as though those were the only places where there were doctors with the skills to perform the surgeries and provide the long-term follow-up care Kingston was going to need,” Elizabeth says. “I went from decorating my baby’s nursery to wondering how we were going to move to a new city.”

Their appointment with Children’s of Mississippi changed everything. Elizabeth and Marcus were relieved to learn that Kingston could be treated by leading pediatric surgeons and cardiologists at home in Mississippi. Three years and four heart surgeries later, Kingston is a happy boy who considers his frequent visits to the Children’s outpatient clinics just a routine part of life.

“There’s a very low turnover in clinic staff, which means a lot to us since Kingston has to come to the clinics so often,” Elizabeth says. “He never gets scared because he’s grown up with everyone here. He knows his doctor very well. In fact, he knows that the nurses and the techs might have to take his blood, but that his doctor isn’t going to do that. Kingston will tell the nurse, ‘It’s time for you to go now. I want Dr. Aggarwal!’

“When I hear him yelling, ‘I’m okay!’ now,” Elizabeth continues with a laugh, “it’s usually because he’s in another room doing something naughty, and he doesn’t want me to come in there and check on him. I love hearing my little boy say ‘I’m okay’ and knowing that because we have Children’s of Mississippi right here at home, it’s really true.”