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Rapids’ Michael Barrios spends time with come back from open-heart-surgery-kid Justice Aliva

Northglenn 11-year-old treated to Dream Day experiences. Takes in a Rapids training session, lunch with Barrios, and an MLS game at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park

John Babiak

Recently, Rapids wingman Michael Barrios was flipping through his Instagram page and came across a posting that he was tagged on. The post concerned a youngster, Justice Aliva, whose regular physical revealed a heart murmur, yet in effect, with the help and persistence of a pediatric cardiologist, it turned out that she had two holes in her heart.

Justice actually had developed Atrial Septal Defect.

The diagnoses explained her feelings of malaise and physical fatigue. The effusive and feisty defender wasn’t able to stay up with her fellow teammates during soccer practices. She felt tired if not defeated at times.

Everyday activities were compromised as well. They often led to headaches and bouts of dizziness and the need to sleep to just recover from her tween life.

After one failed surgery, Justice had to endure a risky eight-hour open-heart surgery. The invasive procedure was successful and soon thereafter, the youngster kicked off two months of intense cardiac rehabilitation.

She nailed each and every set goal and at the six-week mark was cleared to be a high-altitude active youth again.

Aliva proudly reported to the Burgundy Wave that she even scored two goals in her first match after coming off of her youth team’s disabled list. She is still training with a here Casa FC side, and so, with added intensity to regain her “lungs, overall condition and agility.”

Readers of the Burgundy Wave need to appreciate that Justice is a massive player-fan of the game of soccer. And her favorite club- the 5280 Colorado Rapids.

While recuperating in her ICU suite, she wore a Rapids jersey every day just in case a Rapids’ player might come by to pay a cheerful get-well visit.

Aliva reported that she never misses following a Rapids game. She knows all the players and their current MLS stats, and yes, wa by heart.

Aliva setbacks and recovery efforts spoke to Barrios, the father of three young children. He tapped the Instagram post’s Like tab, and something magical soon followed. Perhaps it was God’s divine intervention.

To help catalyze her motivation to work hard and recover from her surgery at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, she wished of just being around her favorite Rapids’ players, especially the speedy Barrios, her number one guy. Alvia said- “Michael has always inspired me because he is so fast.”

The intervention followed and would you believe that with the support of the national NGO- Dream On 3 Rocky Mountains a stretch limo delivered Justice, her supportive mother and siblings to the Rapids’ training field. They all engaged with the players, trainers and coaching staff. Then observed the entire workout from Field 23’s viewing berm.

Soon after practice concluded, the entire Aliva clan was escorted to the center circle in DICK’S Sporting Goods Park and sat on blankets under a burgundy pop-up tent.

John Babiak

Next Barrios arrived as did Justice’s favorite brunch entries- Steuben’s Uptown fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup. For the next hour, the family dined and chatted away, all to the delight of a beaming Justice.

For the easy-going Barrios, this casual event was unique and very gratifying.

He commented, “While with Dallas FC, I would make hospital visits in Frisco, Texas and nearby Dallas; however, I never participated in such a 1-on-1 experience.”

Ahead of the Houston Dynamo match, the dynamic Altitude Sports broadcast team of Richard Fleming and Marcelo Balboa took the time to interview Justice before she trotted over for warm-ups and more time with her favorite teammates.

Not only did Barrios, Fleming, and Balboa deliver, but so did Rapids Executive Vice President and GM, Pádraig Smith, and Senior VP of Business Operations, Wayne Brant. The front office executives hosted the family in their stadium suite to watch the match.

John Babiak

Postgame, Barrios joined Lalas Abubakar for a few final autographs, and Justice’s two-day Dream Day was complete.

As an adult who too is afflicted with congenital heart anomalies, I offer this sage advice- always listen to your body. I didn’t.

Heart disease and disorders often present themselves by way of a mix of symptoms. Do not pass them off. Share any of these symptoms with your health care providers, and so immediately: shortness of breath with activity and even when lying down. Fatigue, malaise and the need to sleep to just recover from everyday life. Mood swings. Reduced ability to exercise. Dizziness or worse- fainting spells. Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat. Difficulty concentrating and decreased focus and alertness. Chest pain.