Oct. 18—Jack Kramer, 7, has a lot of heart even though he only has half of the most powerful organ in the human body.
The Liberty Lake second-grader, born without a left ventricle and functioning aorta, was a runner-up in the "Military Kids Have Talent" contest sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation that was decided Oct. 8. Jack, a dancer, and his family didn't win the grand prize, a vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando.
However, the fledgling hoofer won over the hearts of many connected with "Military Kids Have Talent" in making the finals of the virtual competition.
His parents, Kyle Kramer, 36, an Air Force helicopter pilot at Fairchild Air Force Base, and his mother, Robyn Kramer, 34, are so proud of their plucky eldest child.
"Jack is a spicy little guy," Kyle Kramer said from Spokane International Airport while en route to Boston with his family. "He just wants to dance. He makes you give thanks for life."
When Jack was born, he was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which required surgery when he was just 3 days old. The Sunrise Elementary school student also went under the knife at 6 months and then at age 2 1/2 .
"The first surgery was to keep Jack alive, the second was to transform the circulation and the last one is so he can still be with us now," Kramer said. "The oldest anyone with his condition has lived was 36 years old."
It's fitting that the Kramers flew to Boston since each of Jack's surgeries have been at Boston Children's Hospital. However, the Kramers were traveling to Beantown since Robyn Kramer ran the Boston Marathon for the Fisher House Foundation, which supports military families.
"The Fisher House provides lodging for active duty members of the military who have been injured," she said. "They paid for our hotel stay, and they help families with kids who need treatment. Boston has been like a home away from home.
"The people have been so kind to us, and the treatment has been amazing. It's been well worth flying across the country so Jack can get the best care. If it weren't for everything they've done, he wouldn't be dancing."
During lockdown, Jack's inner tiny dancer emerged. "Jack developed a passion for dancing during the pandemic when like everyone else he was stuck at home," Robyn said. "He loves music. He would tell Alexa to play a certain song in his bedroom and just dance."
Fall Out Boy's "The Immortals," Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" and Marshmello and Bastille's "Happier" are some of the up-tempo hits that inspired Jack to get down.
Jack's ability to dance is remarkable considering his condition. "Doctors told him that he will not be able to breathe as well as other kids or have the energy to be able to sing and dance like a normal kid," Robyn said. "For him to do what he's been doing is really cool. I can't thank the Elizabeth Dole Foundation enough."
Jack's heart has stopped four times during surgery, and he still has a ways to go. "People think he's fixed and cured, but he's not," Robyn said.
"His circulation is messed up, and he has damage to other organs, and he has half of a heart. But I'm trying to be optimistic."
Jack has been blessed with parents who not only do all that they can for his health, but also have been hellbent on traveling as much as possible so he can experience the world.
Jack has visited 25 states, Germany, Norway, the Bahamas and Canada. "He loved the Bahamas," Robyn said. Kyle records much of their vacations. "It's great to look back at it all," Robyn said.
The Kramers, who also have twins, 4-year-olds Joseph and Marley, will do all that they can so Jack will keep on dancing. "Jack is a wonderful boy," Robyn said. "We're so proud of him for taking part in 'Military Kids Have Talent' and just for everything he does each day. We'll do whatever we need to do for him."