What better day than April 19 for the son of a Patriot to be born?
Collin Light came into this world 230 years to the day the battles at Lexington and Concord began. Seconds after his arrival, his battle began.
A battle for life.
Matt and Susie Light knew what was coming. Still, they were somewhat in shock when doctors whisked little Collin away just after he opened his eyes for the first time.
After Susie had held him ever so briefly.
''Actually, they wrapped him quickly, let me look at him, and kind of laid him on me," Susie said. ''I don't remember touching him. It couldn't have been 20 seconds, and they went running out of the room with him."
Matt, the 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound monster of a starting tackle for the New England Patriots, has never felt as weak as he did watching his newborn go from the delivery room at Brigham and Women's Hospital to the intensive care unit, where he was administered a drug to keep oxygenated blood flowing through his heart long enough for him to undergo open-heart surgery. Later that day, Collin was taken across the street to Children's Hospital Boston.
''It was terrible," Matt said. ''I knew he was upset and feeling the pain. They stuck him like 10-15 times with needles. He was crying and screaming, and there was nothing I could do.
''I wouldn't wish that on anybody. It hurt to watch."
It hurt even more when he was escorted out of the unit after the medication caused Collin to stop breathing. Thankfully, the little one was soon resuscitated.
Collin Light was 22 hours old when he underwent a surgical procedure to correct a condition known as transposition of the great arteries. His aorta and pulmonary arteries were reversed, meaning his body was not receiving oxygenated blood as it should. The malformation needed to be corrected for him to survive.
Collin, who weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces, was on the operating table for some seven hours, including a stint on a heart-lung bypass machine, as Dr. Pedro del Nido rerouted the arteries to their proper positions.
For the next few days, the Lights grew encouraged as Collin, hooked up to more than a dozen medical apparatuses, began to gain strength.
But as is often the case after an arterial switch operation, Collin experienced a narrowing in the aorta that required another surgery. Because the artery that was closing supplies blood to the lower half of his body and the intestine, doctors had to stop his feeding.
He went two days without food as he waited for the surgery.
A week into his life, Collin was in the operating room for a second surgery, this one lasting four hours.
''A week old . . . a week old, and they have to cut him again," Matt said. ''Man, it was tough."
Collin spent two weeks at 6 East, Children's Hospital Boston's cardiac unit. He was in a room next to a patient who had been housed there for some time, a patient Susie and Matt met last Christmas when they toured the unit as part of a Patriots delegation.
''Each year since 2001, since I've been here, when my wife and I visited the hospital, we always ended up on the sixth floor," Matt said. ''I don't know what it means, but we always ended up going there.
''And to meet a family that we had met there and to see they had spent so much time there . . . we felt pretty fortunate to be there just two weeks."
Added Susie: ''The most difficult thing about being there was seeing so many families and children who were going through so much. Our situation was very serious, but it could have been so much worse."
When Collin was allowed to go home for the first time, the sleepless nights for the Lights were far from over.
Matt jumped every time Collin made a noise. And he jumped when seemingly too much time passed without Collin making a noise.
Collin, who has a 5-inch scar in the middle of his chest and a less visible one on his left side, came home with an irregular heartbeat. He often went 24 hours without eating, as he had difficulty eating because he spent so much time on a feeding tube the first couple of weeks of his life.
''I was pretty much nervous all the time," Matt said. ''All that he had gone through and there was a period of three months when I just didn't know how much he could take.
''Everything was magnified. He had acid reflux, which was rough. Then, because of that, he couldn't eat very well. It was really tough on him for a long period."
By the time the Patriots reported to training camp in July, however, Collin was doing better. Now, the newest member of the family, the son of a Patriot born on Patriots Day, is happy, healthy, and playing with his 3-year-old sister, Grace.
''Oh, he's a regular little chunky baby," Matt said. ''Just having a kid that eats is a big relief."
Around the age of 7, Collin will undergo a physical that should determine whether he'll be allowed to play contact sports, Susie said.
''All I want is that he is never limited by his condition," she said, ''but we won't know that for some time."
Susie, who describes Collin's ordeal as the most stressful thing she has endured, said she now has three kids in the house -- Grace, Collin, and Matt, who is home recovering from surgery to repair a broken leg he suffered in Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
''He needs to get out of here and get back to work," Susie said with a laugh.
Despite being limited in his movement, Matt plans to be at Children's Hospital Boston Tuesday. Through his charitable foundation, he and Susie are donating $25,000 to fund a 3D echocardiography system.
After Collin's condition was spotted on an ultrasound, the Lights say use of the imaging technique and research by Dr. Gerald Marx helped doctors better understand the specifics of Collin's condition and prepare for the surgery.
Matt Light, who majored in industrial technology at Purdue, sounds like a cardiac surgeon when he describes his son's situation. For that, he credits Marx and his staff.
''I can't thank the staff at Children's Hospital enough for the work they did in making us feel comfortable and doing all they could to help Collin," Light said. ''They kept us informed.
''The work they are doing is unbelievable. I'm just happy that I have a way to help. I hope it helps them continue to do the great work they do. The support we get for events we hold throughout the year allows us to do things like this. We're blessed to be able to lend a helping hand."
The Matt Light Foundation is one of the busiest of the many charitable organizations run by Patriots. In August, the franchise presented Light with the Ron Burton Community Service Award in recognition of his efforts in the community.
Jerome Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org