4-year-old with heart of gold dies, but his story lives on

4-year-old Joaquin Salazar

It started with a picture posted on Facebook after a family reached out asking simply for prayers.

More than 13,000 likes and 2,000 comments later, the 4-year-old's parents are telling his story to save other lives and sending thanks to viewers for all the support.

"We were floored with how many prayers were coming through and that is the way we're getting through this, through everybody's comments."

Paul and Christie Salazar of Brownsville are the proud parents of two little boys, a 6-year-old and 4-year-old Joaquin Salazar.

"I didn't know he would have any kind of impact, but he really did," said Paul.

Even in pictures, Joaquin's energy radiates.

His smile could melt any heart and there was a spark that was evident since the minute he came into this world.

"We always knew Joaquin had a little extra special in him," said Christie.

"He acted like any other child but me and Christie knew his condition. We knew he had to be monitored; he had to be watched," said Paul.

Joaquin was born with heart defects that most adults have never even heard of.

"The defects he had was Tricuspid Atresia, Interrupted Aortic Arch and transposition of the great arteries and we were told he would have 3 open heart surgeries."

His first at 7 days old, second at 6 and a half months and then the third surgery came last week at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi.

"The 3rd one was the hardest. It was supposed to give him an extra 15 to 30 years of life; it did the opposite for Joaquin."

That brings us to this funeral home in Brownsville where Joaquin, surrounded by blue balloons and his favorite toys, lays while family and friends say their goodbyes.

Mom and Dad just days after losing their young son are surprisingly strong.

"We have had our moments," said Christie, "I was a nervous wreck in the hospital. My knees were buckling; I was sick I couldn't eat. The minute I heard that voice from above, God's words, I knew it was time for my child to go home."

Now more than ever, Christie a board member with the Children's Heart Foundation, wants to do everything possible to raise awareness about congenital heart defects and more importantly raise funds for more research so no other family has to go through what they are at this moment.

"We learned so much from it, we get our strength from above and we have Joaquin's fighting spirit. Joaquin changed me from the moment he was in my womb and he continues to change me now. With him and God this momma is not going to stop."

Joaquin was laid to rest Tuesday.

Every year, more than 4,800 infants are born with Critical Congenital Heart Disease making it the leading cause of death in babies less than 1 year of age.

A simple, pain-free screening test can help prevent this statistic from growing. It's performed any time after 24 hours of age, before leaving the hospital.

For more on fundraising for research to help improve lives of children with CHD's go to

A celebration of life will be held at the elementary school Joaquin attended in Olmito on Wednesday.

For details go to and