Fox News anchor chronicles son’s heart condition

Fox News anchor Bret Baier will be at the All Pro Dad Live conference at Greater Christian Atlanta School on Saturday to sign his book “Special Heart” and give a speech. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Caption
Fox News anchor Bret Baier will be at the All Pro Dad Live conference at Greater Christian Atlanta School on Saturday to sign his book “Special Heart” and give a speech. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: Fox News

Credit: Fox News


EVENT PREVIEW

All Pro Dad Live

9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. $49 general admission ($79 with special meet and greets). Greater Atlanta Christian School, 1575 Indian Trail Road, Norcross. www.allprodad.com/live.

Until 2007, former Atlanta resident and Fox News anchor Bret Baier’s personal life was hardly fodder for headlines, much less a book.

In fact, everything seemed just peachy in 2007 when he and his wife, Amy, had their first child, Paul. Then a nurse noticed their son’s color was a little off.

After some tests, the news got much worse. A doctor gave them this shocking news: "Your son has a complex heart disease. He has a very complicated heart."

Baier, a Marist graduate and Fox News’ first Atlanta correspondent in 1998, turned this potentially tragic story into a story of hope called “Special Heart,” a book that came out in June. It spent five weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and received an average of five stars out of five from fans on Amazon. Baier wasn’t able to fit Atlanta into his initial book tour but is finally able to come south for a speech and book signing at the All Pro Dad Live conference Saturday at the Greater Atlanta Christian School.

He hopes to bring along his son, the star of “Special Heart.” “He likes to sign books with me,” Baier said in a recent phone interview from his home base in Washington, D.C.

He will be joined by comic Jeff Foxworthy, University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt and Super Bowl champ Tony Dungy, among others.

While in the hospital in 2007, Baier chronicled the family’s hardships in a series of emails to friends and colleagues. Baier’s brother Tim compiled those emails with pictures. “I looked at that and thought, ‘There’s probably a book here that could help some families.’ ” (Many of those very raw emails are included in the book as well.)

He also decided to give all proceeds from the book to D.C.-based Children's National Medical Center, where his son was treated, as well as nonprofit pediatric heart research groups. Based on sales to date, he hopes to donate at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Baier said that being so personal was not in his normal wheelhouse as a journalist. “It’s not exactly comfortable when you start dealing with emotions and family and life-and-death situations,” he said.

But the reaction to the book has made it all worthwhile: “It’s been enriching to listen to so many personal stories of people going through adversity. I’ve had dads come to signings wearing hospital bands with kids in the hospital recovering from surgery.”

Paul, now 7, didn’t have it easy by any stretch. He’s been through three open-heart surgeries and multiple angioplasties. But in many ways, he’s just a normal kid.

“He’s doing great,” Baier said. “He’s bouncing off the wall at summer camp. He’s in golf camp. He did tennis camp. He plays soccer. He’s very athletic. He’s the tallest kid in his class.”

And better yet: He’s got Baier’s full head of hair. “Looks like the Lego snap-on,” he joked.

His son has one more big surgery to replace a heart valve when he’s about 12 or 13. “We try not to think about the stuff that’s ahead,” Baier said. “We try to do normal family stuff. We’ll enjoy the good health and some time on the beach.”

Paul is not quite old enough to have read the book, but “when he’s 16 or 17 and asks for car keys, I’ll say, ‘Go read that book and see what you put your mother through!’ “

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