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Attendees of the "graduation" ceremony wave. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- Thursday was "Graduation Day" at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

More than 20 heart patients under seven months old all got diplomas declaring that it is now safe for them to go home.

PCH Chief Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Pophall said the kids were among the sickest of the sick.

"Everyone's heart is supposed to have four chambers and four valves," he said. "Many of those children have only two chambers and only two valves, or there's holes that are everywhere inside the heart, and the tubes that go in and out of the heart aren't in the right spot."

The kids health conditions have improved because they each underwent two surgeries as part of PCH's Complex Congenital Heart Infant Evaluation and Followup, or CHIEF program.

"The kids who were really the sickest of sick heart babies now get to go home, and they go home with a diploma and a graduation certificate," Pophall said.

One of those babies is six-month-old Lorenzo Olearus. His dad, Nicky, said he's relieved and looking forward to Lorenzo's future.

"He's going to make it. He's going to have a big inspirational story to tell, thanks to the medical team here at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

What they do for babies like Lorenzo is amazing, and they are truly heroes, in my mind."

Bob McClay, Reporter

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