Seven-year old Max Page is the little tyke from Volkswagen’s wildly popular Super Bowl ad from last year, where he dressed up as Darth Vader and channeled the Sith Lord’s Force to start a Passat in what may be the greatest commercial ever made for anything, ever. Today, he’s channeling that same energy to brave something far more scary: heart surgery, to correct a congenital defect found when he was just 3 months old.
Page has had eight surgeries in the past seven years, but this is his first open-heart surgery. The condition is called “Tetralogy of Fallot.” It reduces oxygen flow to the heart and slows Page down. “Max has not known how good he can feel because of the restrictions of his valve,’’ said his father, Buck Page, “so this is going to enable him to become even more active, which is hard to believe, and help him out tremendously.”
Page is scheduled for the procedure at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. He will get a valve transplant from a donor heart, and a hole patched up. He’s already on his third pacemaker and will need one for the rest of his life, but his current one should last until he’s 17.
“We’re going to be really happy when it’s Friday morning,’’ said Jennifer Page, Max’s mother. “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. We’ve taken full advantage that we we’ve known he’s needed this to have a good time, to have fun, but certainly we’re entering some of the hardest emotional times right now.’’
Volkswagen said that the company has contributed to the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, an organization that raises money for children with heart issues like Max. Its employees have also raised money to it as well as the Children’s Hospital—where Max is an ambassador. VW’s ad agency Deutsch, which created the ad, is matching its employees’ donations to both as well.
And understandably Max is scared, but his parents maintain that he’s still upbeat. And Max has taken comfort in his Vader alter ego: “when I’m Darth, I feel strong.”