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Heart patient needs 'Force Push' to win Star Wars competition

"When I was ten years old, I asked my dad if I could watch Star Wars," - Dylan Van Dyke

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — UPDATE: Luke Skywalker gives local boy's competition an edge

Some people are just born to overcome. 

They find their purpose and place in life while defying all the odds.

Dylan Van Dyke is one of those people. He was born with multiple heart defects, and soon after he entered the world, doctors told his mother, Dawn, the news no parent wants to hear.

"They said Dylan wouldn't live long enough to see his first birthday," said Dawn. "We were devastated."

Dawn says two days before Dylan was born, she went into the hospital for a routine amniotic fluid and non-stress test, and that's where the nightmare began.

"As soon as the tech put the wand on my belly, she stopped talking and then excused herself from the room," Dawn said. "Come to find out he had Dandy-Walker Syndrome, which is a rare congenital malformation in the cerebellum of the brain."

Doctors told Dawn they didn't know how serious it was and the only way to find out for sure was to do an MRI after he was born.

"They induced labor the following day," said Dawn. "During labor, Dylan's heart wasn't tolerating the contractions so I ended up having a C-Section."

Dylan survived, but entered the world with several heart defects.

"Pulmonary Vein Stenosis, Pulmonary Hypertension and he has a Bicuspid Aortic Valve," added Dawn. 

Dylan's heart issues worsened in 2013 to the point where open heart surgery was scheduled.

Credit: Dawn Van Dyke
Dylan Van Dyke awaiting to be discharged from Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. after his open heart surgery in 2013.
Credit: Dawn Van Dyke
Dylan Van Dyke endured open heart surgery at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grad Rapids, Mich. in 2013 to fix his pulmonary vein stenosis.

"I wasn't scared," said Dylan, 15, who will be a sophomore next year at Grandville High School. "I was somewhat nervous and anxious, as I recall."

Soon after Dylan's surgery was when his love for the Star Wars started.

"I remember when I was ten years, I asked my dad if I could watch Star Wars," Dylan said. 

His passion for the saga continued to grow. He says he's watched all of the movies several times as well as catching some of the animated cartoon series. 

"I probably have watched The Phantom Menace the most," said Dylan.

"Dylan just gravitated to Star Wars," added Dawn. "Star Wars bedding, shirts; he wanted anything he could get his hands on."

For the past five years, Dylan started to get into Star Wars Lego sets and began constructing them with his dad. 

"Jabba's Palace was one of the first sets I got," said Dylan. "The first time I put it together, it took me about a week."

In early May 2019, Dawn happened to be on her computer when she came across an interesting competition that was being sponsored by Project Heart, which is a nonprofit organization that exists to fund the research needed to find lasting cures for all types of Congenital Heart Disease.

"It was Star Wars themed," Dawn said. "I told [Dylan] about it. figuring he would like to do it, which he did."

Dylan submitted his Star Wars Lego creations as his entry into the competition on May 11 and has been watching the online voting unfold ever since.'

"At the beginning the voting was slow, but it's picked up rapidly," said Dylan. "Currently, my friends at school are helping me by posting on their social media sites."

Dylan is among 37 kids who submitted entries into the national competition. He's been in first place for the better part of the last week, but a few of the challengers have begin to creep up on him.

The entry that receives the most votes will win two free tickets to one of Disney's "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" theme parks. The one at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. opens this weekend while the one at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. opens August 29.

"Going to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge would be really exciting," said Dylan. 

Online voting for Dylan's competition ends at 11:00 p.m. ET Friday, May 31.

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