JMU grad uses photography to raise awareness for children with CHD

A little boy's zipper scar from open heart surgery
A little boy's zipper scar from open heart surgery(WHSV)
Published: Feb. 15, 2017 at 11:35 PM EST
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Four-year-old Emilee Krizov has a zipper. Not like the one on her jacket or on her boots, but the one on her chest.

"It was at the doctors, and the doctor make it," Emilee said.

She was born with a congenital heart defect, or CHD, and has undergone nine open heart surgeries including one to install a pacemaker.

"She's a child that is just like any other one, just with a couple more challenges in life that she's gonna have to go through," Emilee's mom, Heather Krizov, said.

Sherae Hunter takes pictures of children with CHD. She's a JMU graduate and photographer who started the Zipperstrong project.

"I want them to see the zipper. I want them to know that these kids are different. They're not like your kids," Hunter said. "But also, they are like your kids. They're just as awesome and strong and resilient. They're adorable, silly and goofy. But they just have this other thing about them too."

Sherae met these families through Mended Little Hearts, an organization that connects families who have children with CHD.

"She's truly captured my son's personality in photograph," Megan Setzer, Mended Little Hearts founder, said.

"It's her personality, her future, her past, her present. It's everything about her," Krizov said.

So others can see what they see.

"If they didn't have their shirts off, you would think they were just a normal healthy child." Setzer said. "But with their shirts off you can see these battle scars. You can see that they've been through so much in their little lives."

Even with a weak heart, these kids are strong.

You can find SheRae Hunter's blog, along with more of her pictures, in the Related Links section of this page.