Macklemore helps brighten spirits of sick 6-year-old Wash. boy

SEATTLE -- A 6-year-old boy who was facing a life-threatening heart condition last fall is on the mend thanks to heart specialists at Seattle Children's Hospital, but little AJ Hwangbo was having trouble bouncing back emotionally form his ordeal.

That was, until he got to meet his hero -- local superstar musician Macklemore.

AJ suddenly became sick on Nov. 12, and as his health worsened, his parents rushed him to Children's emergency room where doctors discovered his heart beat was abnormal and his heart itself was enlarged. Without immediate intervention, AJ could have suffered permanent damage or died, the hospital said.

Doctors were able to treat his rare acute viral myocarditis condition, and soon AJ's heart was recovering, but his spirits were low. AJ would only communicate with an occasional nod and wouldn't eat or smile, his mother said.

"Most of the time he would look right through me," Yoo-Lee Yea told Children's Hospital's Rose Egge. "We didn't know what was going on in his psyche."

As doctors and counselors at Children's worked with AJ to help him get over the emotional distress of a near-death experience, a donor had given the hospital 2 tickets to Macklemore's sold-out concert in December. Doctors knew AJ loved music and Macklemore was his favorite artist, so they offered the tickets to AJ and his family.

"We were concerned for his life," Yea told the hospital. "But when I told AJ, he had the biggest smile on his face. He was so happy. That's all I needed to do to go through with it."

But team members wanted to do even more, so they reached out to Macklemore's management team and got AJ backstage passes to meet his favorite artist.

"It was such a great experience," Yea told Children's. "Macklemore and his fiance were so kind and gentle with him. They gave him gifts and joked with him. Macklemore even told AJ that he was planning a surprise visit to the hospital so he would see him again soon."

AJ's spirits brightened after the concert, as he began talking again and getting out of bed and even feeding himself. And just before AJ was released from the hospital in mid December, Macklemore fulfilled his promise and came to see AJ at the hospital.

Doctors say they expect AJ to make a full recovery.

Read more about AJ's heart condition and how this magical meeting with Macklemore came about on Seattle Children's Hospital website.