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Soldier Returns Just in Time for Unborn Son’s Heart Surgery

Courtesy Jonathan Keeney(NEW YORK) -- Four months before he was born, Jaxon Lucas Keeney was diagnosed with a heart defect -- his aortic artery and pulmonary artery were backwards, so that his blood circulated in the wrong direction.

His parents, Jon and Megan Keeney, both 26, knew the baby would be whisked straight from birth into the operating room for lifesaving surgery and were confident in Jaxon's doctor.

The hard part was getting the baby's father home to West Virginia in time for the delivery.  Jon Keeney was on active duty in the U.S. Army's 305th Military Police Unit nearly 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan.

In 2007, Jon Keeney joined the Reserves at age 20. He did one tour of Iraq in 2010, then volunteered for Afghanistan. The couple found out Megan was pregnant two days before he went overseas.

Jon Keeney had one delay after another, then got stuck in Germany for four days when his charter flight home was cancelled.  But his father, a Baptist pastor, tapped some of his connections, and U.S. senators.  Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va , stepped in to help.

Jon Keeney arrived home on June 5, just two days before the baby's birth.

Just last week, Jaxon returned from West Virginia University Children's Hospital in Morgantown and the Keeneys are living together as a family for the first time.

Jaxon's condition -- transposition of the great arteries -- is the second most common cyanotic heart defect, causing blue-tinged skin and breathing problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In a normal heart, the blood that returns from the body goes through the right side of the heart and the pulmonary artery to the lungs to get oxygen.  It then returns through the left side and travels out the aorta to the body.

"In transposition, the pulmonary artery comes out of the left [of the heart] and the aorta comes out of the right," according to Dr. Larry Rhodes, chief of pediatric cardiology at WVU Children's, where Jaxon was treated.

"The blood doesn't go where it is supposed to," said Rhodes.  "The blood goes to the body and is not taking oxygen."

In the United States, the congenital heart defect occurs in about 1,900 babies a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors can diagnose the condition with a fetal ultrasound at 22 weeks' gestation.  They think the cause may be genetic.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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