DENVER (CBS4) – A recent high school graduate went in for surgery a week ago at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and the way he arrived for the operation delighted everyone who saw him. AJ Kalvelage believes “when you look good, you feel good.”

(credit: AJ Kalvelage)

“Sharp dressed man, you know,” said AJ with a big smile.

This 18 year old pays attention to his outfit. On this day, he is summer casual, wearing shorts, a short sleeve button up shirt and Vans.

But AJ is a musician. In his years performing in Castle View High School bands he appreciated the formal attire.

“Feel snazzy, I don’t know, kind of like you’re kind of special in a way,” he told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

(credit: AJ Kalvelage)

But back in 2017, AJ’s look had him worried. He was born with pectus excavatum, his chest was sunken.

“It was compressing my heart and lungs,” he explained.

At RMHC, surgeons inserted a metal bar to raise up his sternum.

“Lot of pain, but worth it in the end,” he said.

The end came May 19. AJ was back at the hospital to have the bar removed. This time, he arrived in his tuxedo, dressed for success.

“When I put on that tuxedo, I’m going somewhere I want to be, I’m doing something I love,” AJ said.

That tux radiated confidence.

(credit: AJ Kalvelage)

“I wasn’t nervous at all, at that point,” he said. “I was just excited, ready to go.”

“It was great,” said Dr. Steven Rothenberg, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at RMHC.

In an anxious coronavirus world, Rothenberg called AJ’s attitude contagious.

“Kind of infected everybody around him because everybody was smiling and laughing,” said Rothenberg.

Because of AJ, the hospital has started #ShowUpForSurgery. RMHC is now encouraging all kids to show up in a costume or clothing that makes them happy, and like AJ, take the scary out of surgery.

Kathy Walsh

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