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'Little Darth Vader' released from hospital after heart surgery

June 19, 2012 |  9:40 am

Four days after undergoing open-heart surgery, the first thing on Max Page's mind was a milkshake.

Max, the Orange County 7-year-old who played a pint-sized Darth Vader in a Volkswagen ad aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, was released Monday from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he underwent a procedure Thursday to replace a pulmonary valve.

The two-hour surgery was the eighth for Max, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as an infant.

"The blood vessel that goes between the heart and lungs was way too small ... probably 10% of normal size," Dr. Michael Silka, co-director of the Heart Institute at the hospital, told reporters Wednesday before the surgery. "It's like trying to basically breathe through a straw."

As long as Max's body accepts the porcine valve, doctors said Thursday's surgery could be his last major procedure.

The replacement valve is expected to last 10 to 15 years, Dr. Vaughn Starnes told reporters after Max's surgery, but by the time it needs to be replaced, technology could allow it to be done so without major surgery.

For now, Max will spend six to eight weeks at home recovering.

"His job now is to get his strength back up and get his stamina back up to be in school in the fall right on schedule," Silka told reporters Monday.

Max was bright and bubbly Monday as he and his family — father Buck, mother Jennifer and older brother Els — held a brief press conference before leaving the hospital.

"I do feel a little pain in my chest but not much," Max said.

Max, who also had recurring roles on "The Young and The Restless" and works as a junior ambassador for the children's hospital, had one request after leaving the hospital.

"I'm excited about a lot of things," he said. "Especially having a milkshake."

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— Kate Mather

twitter.com/katemather

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