— Max Page, 7, captured the nation’s hearts when he appeared as the mini Darth Vader in a Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial.
Now recovering from an open-heart procedure he underwent in June at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Page, who was born with a congenital heart defect, is channeling the force on his brave road to recovery.
"I feel awesome. I feel great,” Page told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie. Page was given a new pulmonary valve, which allows his heart to function more effectively. This was his eighth surgery, and the new valve will have to be replaced in ten years.
Since the operation, he told Guthrie he has “held up and I’ve just been good.”
"I feel way better," he said with a big smile. "My heart feels better."
Part of his recovery is keeping quiet at home, where his parents made sure the house would be a fun place for him to hang out. "We've been making milkshakes, getting games, art,” he said. He also spends time to reading his fan mail, which recently included a note from the original Darth Vader. It said, “Dear Max, I'm thinking about you! May the force, James Earl Jones.”
He has also sharpened his skills at the card game Cribbage, and has beaten his mom but “that’s because she is the only one who knows how to play.” He visited with the captain of the LA Kings who brought the Stanley Cup to the hospital. Page got to drink water out of it.
According to his mom Jennifer Page, the surgery went as well as can be expected and the biggest concern now is making sure he heals completely. “Heart-wise he's doing great. He said he feels better than he ever says so that makes me happy, but also a little sad because it's like I had no idea how much pressure — they said it was equivalent to wearing backpack for him, a weighted backpack — and now he just feels light.”
His doctor said, "What's wrong with his circulation has been corrected. Most of the things we worry about after surgery are in the rear-view mirror."
One of the biggest challenges his parents face now is trying to hold him back from running, playing, and acting. His mom insists he is not allowed to audition “until you can fully engage.”
Until then, he has his little brother Els, 6, back home as his constant playmate and supportive friend.