11:42 AM

The Tale of Matching Zippers

Two Cook Children's cardiac patients find love decades after surgery

Growing up, Matt Sampson always thought the scar on his chest was something he only shared in common with his grandfather. Until he met Heather.

"He's the only other person I knew who had heart surgery," says Matt, who was born with an atrial septal defect.

When Matt was 1, he underwent open heart surgery at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The procedure repaired the hole in the wall between the heart's upper chambers. Though he doesn't remember much about his time in the hospital, he knows the role it has played in his life is important.

Flash forward about two decades, Matt met Heather while the two were attending Abilene Christian University in the fall of 2013.

"We went on a date to a coffee shop and on our way back she mentioned she had heart surgery and she showed me her scar," Matt said. "I was like, 'No way! I have the same scar!"

It turns out Heather had the same defect repaired at Cook Children's when she was 5.

"I remember a lot about my surgery, but I was never scared," Heather said. "It was around Halloween and there was a big trick or treating event. I remember it being fun, a lot more fun than school."

Heather and Matt grew up in different cities. Heather is from the small West Texas town of Coahoma. Matt lived in Arlington, Texas before his family moved away to Virginia. Both were able to run and play like the other kids, with regular heart checkups here and there. The two never dreamed, however, they would find another who shared their scar.

"My mom calls it our matching zippers," said Heather. "It's right down the middle of our chests."

First it was matching zippers, now they share their last name.

Heather and Matt Sampson got married in August of 2015 and live in Austin, Texas. They say if there's a family out there going through a similar situation, try not to worry too much.

"For me, the outcome is all positive," said Matt. "My life has been blessed by Cook Children's and so has Heather's."

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