PAY IT FORWARD
From a Broken Heart to a Charmed One How a thoughtful memorial to a couple’s late son will help San Diego kids for years to come
n Nov. 8, 2019, Maria and Michael Platis’ life changed forever. Their funny, witty,
empathetic, well-spoken film-buff son, George, died of chronic pneumonia and of complications stemming from a heart defect that had plagued him for all of his 29 years. From birth, George had been one of Rady Children’s “cardiac kids.” Born with a heart that was missing a ventricle and misplaced on the opposite side of his chest, he underwent the first of his many heart surgeries at just 4 days old. Despite his challenges, George got to enjoy typical kid things like playing the clarinet and lacrosse—he even became his team’s MVP—and competing in Greek folk dance. He also helped out with Rady Children’s annual Heart Party and spoke at events for the families of other kids diagnosed with heart conditions. In his short life, he was able to leave an impression on so many people.
HEARTS OF GOLD Above: Maria and Michael Platis with their late son, George, and daughter-in- law, Tawnie. Right: Maria’s kintsugi- inspired art benefitting Rady Children’s.
mended with gold, which would be sold to raise money for the Heart Institute at Rady Children’s. “Nobody gets out of this life without a broken heart—we all have heartache to some extent,” Maria says. “And cardiac kids actually have broken hearts that are mended.” Maria faced a steep learning curve: She had to learn all about jewelry, how to build a website and run an online business, and how to effectively market using social media. Maria credits her success to friend and mentor Gina Balourdas. Her husband, Michael, helps as well and serves as the de facto shipping department. Her hard work paid off, and since the site got off the ground in July 2021, her charms, necklaces, bracelets and linked Miracle Maker fundraising page have raised nearly $22,000 in net proceeds for the Heart Institute. A Charmed Heart has made quite the splash in international circles, too—Maria has had customers from as far away as Australia and Dubai. “It was surprising; it gets fun and exciting. And then sometimes you remember why you’re doing it—trying to keep George’s memory alive,” she says. “George was our everything.” To purchase a charm or donate to Maria’s Miracle Maker fundraising page benefitting Rady Children’s, please visit acharmedheart.com .
Maria recalls a message George sent to a friend shortly before his death: “I’ve lived a charmed life.” “Honestly, he had a hard life, but he was an optimist,” Maria says. The phrase came back to her while reading
“I’ve lived a charmed life.”
about kintsugi , the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with gold, and the concept for A Charmed Heart was born. An old friend, an artisan who’d lost a family member to a heart condition (and later had a fatal heart attack himself), helped come up with the prototype of a silver broken-heart charm
32 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE SUMMER 2022
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