WINONA, Minn. — Xzaviar Aune is bringing a little of the comfort of home to youngsters who can’t be there.
He brings Zavy’s Lovies, his handmade blankets and pillowcases, to children staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester and Children’s Miracle Network in La Crosse, Wis.
“He has a very big heart,” his mother, Tabetha Fischer, said. “He’s giving his heart back, in a sense.”
Xzaviar, 15, got the inspiration from his experience as a young patient.
Going in and out of hospitals, he’d always have his blanket from home. The blanket held the smell of his house and helped relieve the anxiety he felt facing surgery and a hospital stay.
It was that feeling of comfort that Xzaviar wanted to replicate in each stitch of fabric he sews into the blankets and pillowcases he donates to infants and children.
Xzaviar was born with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, or PPHN, and supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
Both diseases pushed him in and out of hospitals and intensive care units during his first few months of life.
At the age of 3, he was given a clean bill of health and the opportunity he’d been robbed of for his first few years — the chance to be a regular kid.
For the next 11 years or so, that’s exactly what he did. Whether it was football, wrestling or boxing, Xzaviar’s heart conditions did not affect him. Then in February 2012 Xzaviar was diagnosed with mononucleosis that triggered his heart back into SVT.
He was referred to Mayo Clinic for further evaluation. It was determined that Xzaviar would undergo a cardiac ablation — a relatively simple procedure.
His mother was told the procedure would take 20 minutes; Xzaviar was in the operating room for five hours.
After about four hours of surgery, Fischer was told the doctors had discovered Xzaviar had a very rare condition — atrioventricular nodal re-entrant tachycardia (AVNRT) and atypical AVNRT.
This caused Xzaviar’s blood pressure to drop dangerously low while his heart developed rapid regular palpitations.
After his surgery, Xzaviar was taken to intensive care. Two days later he was released from the hospital.
In November, Xzaviar was given an EKG to evaluate his progress since undergoing his surgery. It was then he was diagnosed with autonomic dysfunction, a disease affecting his blood pressure.
He was prescribed medication to keep his blood pressure up, which has allowed him to return to sports — football specifically.
Last season — with the approval of his doctors — Xzaviar played every play in every game for his Cotter Junior High School football team.
Approaching the one-year anniversary of his surgery, Xzaviar wanted to do something special, but he didn’t know what.
He approached his mother in April with the idea of making blankets and pillowcases for newborns and older children at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester.
And thus, Zavy’s Lovies were born.
His mother gave him a quick lesson in sewing and Xzaviar went to work — sometimes well into the early morning — donating his home-sewn blankets and pillowcases in bunches of 25.
But the most special donation was Xzaviar’s first personal delivery. When his sister, Zoey, was prepping for an oral surgery in Rochester, Xzaviar delivered to an anxious Zoey a pillowcase.
Xzaviar’s working toward raising $1,000 by selling T-shirts with his project logo — Zavy’s Lovies — printed on the front.
Half of the proceeds will go to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester and the other half will go to the Children’s Miracle Network of La Crosse.
Xzaviar said he plans on continuing as long as he can.
It will be harder to dedicate time during the school year; but he plans on pursuing it each summer, and though the focus has shifted to T-shirts, he will always have a stock of blankets and pillowcases available.
“That’s what giving is,” Xzaviar said.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to get it done.”
PHOTO: In this July 25, 2013 photo, Xzaviar Aune, 15, sews together a security blanket at his home in Winona, Minn. Aune has donated his home-sewn blankets and pillowcases to the Ronald McDonald House and Children's Miracle Network. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)