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Heart surgery inspires Mary Bridge Children’s family to give back

As the third and youngest boy in his family, 2-year-old Jack is known as the “wild child."



By Kortney Scroger

As the third and youngest boy in his family, 2-year-old Jack is known as the “wild child.” Although he may be a handful, his father, Dan Gerl, wouldn’t have it any other way. Just two years ago, Jack was fighting for his life.

“In December 2019 when Jack was 4 months old, without any warning whatsoever, he went into cardiac arrest,” Dan explains. “As far as we knew, Jack was a healthy baby — we had no problems up until this point. It was about 9pm and as his grandmother was putting him to bed he just went limp in her arms. I started CPR as we waited for the paramedics. When they got there, they scooped him up and took him to Mary Bridge.”

The team at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital stabilized Jack and began running tests. An ultrasound revealed a tumor in his heart. Jack remained in the Mary Bridge Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for two weeks.

“There was never a moment at Mary Bridge Children’s that we weren’t confident in the care my son was receiving,” Dan says. “There were a couple days where we didn’t know if the tumor could be removed or if our baby was going to need a heart transplant. The doctors, nurses and everybody involved at Mary Bridge did a tremendous job of putting us at ease and giving us confidence — this was the right place for my son to receive care.”

Dan attributes this ease to the whole care team at Mary Bridge Children’s but specifically the confidence and expertise of Jack’s main cardiologist, Josiah Penalver, MD.

Eventually, Jack was referred to Boston Children’s Hospital where he had a successful surgery to remove the tumor and made a full recovery. Jack still returns to Mary Bridge Children's annually for monitoring and follow-ups.

A heart for generosity

As the founder and CEO of Puget Law Group, Dan found ways to use his position to share his son’s story and encourage people to support Mary Bridge Children’s, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My law firm works with a video and marketing company called Crisp,” Dan explains. “At the beginning of the pandemic, they hosted this contest for firms to document what they were doing to continue their good work personally, professionally and in the community. I got really into it, not only because I’m a competitive person but also because this was a really meaningful personal journey for me, Jack and my firm.”

Crisp was touched by Jack’s experience and Dan’s dedication to his colleagues. He won the competition and with it, a Rolls-Royce.

“Sharing Jack’s story was one of the main reasons I won the competition,” Dan says. “After winning, it felt incomplete. I knew I had to do something more.”

At his company’s last holiday party, Dan displayed the Rolls-Royce, shared Jack’s journey and raised $3,000, all of which was donated to Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation.

Dan continues to dream of ways that he and his firm can continue helping Mary Bridge Children’s for years to come, perhaps even involving the use of the Rolls-Royce itself.

“Mary Bridge Children’s played such a key role in Jack’s journey; I hope that for years down the line I can keep sharing his story, helping others who were in my position and being a community bridge.”


Join Dan and Puget Law Group in helping kids like Jack by creating your own fundraiser for Mary Bridge Children’s at fundraisemb.org or give directly at supportmarybridge.org.