By Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 7-year-old boy who starred as mini Darth Vader in a popular Super Bowl car commercial will have open-heart surgery this week to replace a pulmonary valve, and the boy said he has steeled himself for the ordeal ahead.
Young actor Max Page was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, according to a statement from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he will be operated Thursday.
"I kind of know I have to go through it, and don't have an option, so I choose a good attitude," the tow-haired Max, who serves as a junior ambassador for the hospital, told reporters on Wednesday at the medical facility.
"I'll feel weak after this, but it will get better and better. I think I know it will be a good thing to go through this," he said.
About one in every 100 children is born with a heart defect, doctors said. This is Max's eighth surgery, but not all were open heart and doctors are hopeful that after this, Max will never need another open heart surgery, said Dr. Michael Silka, co-director of the heart institute at Children's Hospital.
The boy's heart valve has deteriorated, Dr. Vaughn Starnes, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the hospital who will perform the procedure, said in a statement. That is creating a problem for the heart to empty out into the pulmonary arteries, which is why the operation is set to give Max a new valve.
The boy's mother, Jennifer Page, told reporters on Wednesday that Max was told on Sunday he would need the surgery. "He took the time to cry and be scared, and jumped on board with a positive attitude," she said.
In the 2011 Super Bowl advertisement for the Volkswagen Passat, Max wears a Darth Vader outfit and resembles a pint-sized version of the famous villain from the "Star Wars" movies.
The boy tries in vain to use "The Force" to start a household dryer and get a pet dog to rise up, and to his surprise, he is finally able to start the car - unaware that his father actually did it by remote control. The advertisement quickly gained a mass following on social media.
Max, who doctors said has a pacemaker, also has appeared in the soap opera "The Young and the Restless."
Children with Tetralogy of Fallot, the condition Max suffers from, can enjoy a largely normal life after surgery, said Dr. Ralph Mosca, professor in the department of cardiothoracic surgery and pediatrics at New York University. "The fact this kid had seven (previous) surgeries - he may be one of the more complex forms," said Mosca, who has never treated Max.
The boy will need six to eight weeks to recover at home after the surgery, Silka said.
Max, who carried a stuffed whale, shared with reporters some "Star Wars" wisdom ahead of his surgery. "The Force can really achieve anything," he said.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler)