CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Panthers tight end Greg Olsen tweeted Sunday evening that he would be taking a short break from the team. But unlike teammate Cam Newton, Olsen isn't taking time off to recover from a fractured rib; instead, he and wife Kara will be rooting for one of their own—their son, TJ, who underwent open-heart surgery Monday.
One-year-old TJ was born with a heart defect, an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta, and he has already undergone two surgeries.
The Olsens started a non-profit, The Heartest Yard, that provides in-home care and other services for babies with congenital heart defects, that works in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital. The goal of the program is to improve the interstage mortality rate, increase life expectancy and long term prognosis.
Additionally, last year, Greg donated nearly $300,000 to support the launch of Levine Children's Hospital's new cardiac program. The money came from Olsen's foundation, Receptions for Research.
The Olsens have also helped to lobby for legislation requiring hospitals to perform pulse oximetry screening during newborn screening panels. Governor McCrory signed legislation last May.
Naturally, it's a cause that's near and dear to the family.
"Hey Tate," Greg asked his oldest son in a previous interview with NBC Charlotte, "When we go and throw pennies in the wishing well, what do we wish for?"
"TJ's heart", Tate replied.
"And has it worked so far," Greg asked him.
"Yes!" Tate answered with a smile on his face.
As for TJ's surgery Monday, Greg said in a tweet Monday afternoon that TJ made it out of surgery and is in the ICU recovering.
Panther Nation is behind you, and we're all thinking of and pulling for our toughest little Panther.