Max Page, 7-year-old 'mini Darth Vader,' to have open heart surgery
Max Page, the 7-year-old boy who played a miniature Darth Vader in a Volkswagen commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLV in 2011, is set to undergo open heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect.
Page checked into the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, where he serves as an ambassador to support other children who suffer from heart ailments, on Wednesday and is set to undergo his operation on Thursday, June 14. The procedure is aimed at repairing a hole in his heart and replacing its pulmonary valve, which will be donated by another child.
This is Page's eighth surgery in seven years and his first-open heart procedure, his parents told NBC's "Today" show.Ad agency Deutsch LA, which produced the Volkswagen ad starring Page, is collecting donations for the boy at www.chla.org/max as well as video messages of support and toys for him and his brother, Els. More than $7,000 has been raised so far.
His mother Jennifer said in an email, posted by Deutsch LA, that he was told about his upcoming procedure on Sunday.
"Initially, Max was crying and repeating how scared how he was," she wrote. "We unpeeled the layers by asking what exactly he was afraid of and tackled each issue as he could verbalize it. Blood draws, spending the night in the hospital and hurting are the big three. He was also very sad that summer would be in rest in recovery instead of playing baseball, golf and traveling."
"Around bedtime he asked if I would stay up with him and talk. He wanted to make a 'CAN DO' list. So we wrote out all the things he can do so he could focus on those. Then he said we definitely had to 'Fun Up' the house. So we went and got Els out of bed and spent the next hour redesigning each room with a theme, special rules and secret codes."She quoted Page as telling her: "Mom, I don't have a choice. I have to go through it. I don't like it and it's still scary - but I have to. So I think I might as well go through it with a good attitude."
Page's "Star Wars"-themed Volkswagen commercial was one of the most praised ads that aired during last year's Super Bowl. Dressed as villain Darth Vader, he tries to use "The Force" to move various objects in his house, as well as the family dog, before it appears he has successfully made his father's Volkswagen start.
His mother told NBC's "Today" show that before Page checked into the hospital, he spotted a pair of Darth Vader headsets and told her he wanted them, quoting him as saying: "'Cause when I'm Darth, I feel strong."
Page was diagnosed with his heart defect, called a Tetralogy of Fallot, when he was 3 months old, and then had his first surgery to treat it. He also had a pacemaker put in. His heart condition causes too little oxygen to be present in his blood and has made him become sluggish, his parents said, adding that he will need to replace the valve in his heart again when he is 17 and 20 years old."We're going to be really happy when it's Friday morning," Page's mother said on the "Today" show. "We're entering that part where we're handing our son over to very skilled and talented people with a mission to save his life. We're just trying to soak it all up." In addition to his Darth Vader role, Page also starred in the soap opera "The Young and the Restless," in which he played Reed Hellstrom between 2009 and 2011. He also plays Owen Webb on the NBC show "Prime Suspect," which debuted last year and was canceled after one season. Page has also appeared in commercials for Trident gum and DirecTV satellite services.