HOBART | Tyler Jacob Todd beat all the odds when he was born Aug. 16, 2000 with his tiny heart beating outside his chest, great-aunt Maryanna Mooney said.
"The doctors at Rush Children's Hospital in Chicago gave him less than 1 percent chance of survival. They warned us and he went against all odds," Mooney said.
Mooney and other family members are mourning the death Thursday of the 13-year-old boy who fought to live and survived countless surgeries and procedures throughout his young life.
"Why did God let him live 13 years? Absolutely it was a miracle if you can beat these types of odds," Mooney said.
Tyler, who grew up in Hobart but moved two years ago with parents Chandra and Ryan Stempf to Tennessee, will be brought back home for a funeral service and burial.
Funeral arrangements are pending but will be handled through Burns Funeral Home in Hobart, his Mooney said.
"It's a very traumatic thing. Everyone has been suffering. The call I received about his death was one of the most horrible phone calls I've received in a long time," Mooney said.
Tyler spent the first 14 months of his life in Rush with monitors and ventilators his constant companions.
Tyler's congenital condition, diagnosed during his mother's pregnancy as Ectopia Cordi, was treated by the hospital's pediatric cadiothoracic surgeon Dr. Joseph Amato.
During a four-hour procedure, Amato placed Tyler's heart back inside his chest and covered it with a layer of protective Gore-Tex.
A few months later, Tyler underwent another surgery to repair his main pulmonary artery and a hole that had formed between the lower two chambers of his heart.
Although Tyler had to deal with feeding and breathing tubes for a number of years, during the last four years of his life, he enjoyed being a normal boy, his great-aunt said.
"He had some joys in his life, too," Mooney said.
She said NASCAR racing was something he lived for.
"He knew all the names of the drivers and even went to the races," Mooney said.
Tyler had recently undergone another procedure in Memphis, but died unexpectedly while at home on Thursday.
In addition to his parents and other family members, Tyler is also survived by a brother, Noah, and a sister, Gracie Rose, and his biological dad, Tommy Baker.