background image
Nathaniel "Hawk" Nickels graduates from the cardiology program at the Children’s Heart Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

‘Baby Hawk,’ A CHAMPION of the Community

Young Nathaniel “Hawk” Nickels has been through a lot in the short time since he was born just a year ago. “Baby Hawk,” as his family nicknamed him, was born with a heart defect called pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum (PAIVS). The left side of his heart functions properly, but the right side is underdeveloped.

He has already undergone two major heart surgeries, and doctors expect him to have a few more in the future.

On February 15, Nickels graduated as valedictorian of the CHAMPIONS cardiology program at the Children’s Heart Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. CHAMPIONS stands for Cardiac High Acuity Monitoring Program for Infants and Newborns and is designed to monitor infants born with complex heart defects.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Nathaniel Nickels, Hawk’s father, and his mother, Karina Watson, learned about their son’s condition before he was born.

“When they did the ultrasound on him, they found out there was an abnormality in his heart,” Nickels said.

Heart doctors of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital were present at the graduation ceremony to congratulate parents (Left) Nathaniel Nickels and Karina Watson.
So they needed to take special care of him while in the womb. As the pregnancy progressed, they saw several specialists, learned a lot and pulled through.

“When he was born, he came out screaming,” Nickels said, “which was a great sign and showed he was going to be strong.”

Both mom and dad had to learn all about his condition and how to take care of him at home, with constant communication with doctors. The couple’s home-based training included how to weigh the baby, check his oxygen and everything the nurses did when he was at the hospital. “We took a class and passed it, as well as both of us taking CPR training along with Hawk’s grandmother too,” said his father.

Baby Hawk was given a super hero cape with his initial on it during the ceremony. Baby Hawks dad (left) Nathaniel Nickels and his mother Karina Watson and Baby Hawk.
Baby Hawk is doing great. His parents say his motor skills are “fantastic” and he is “full of so much energy.”

“He is a character. He is always making us laugh and keeping us on our toes for a baby who has been through a lot,” said Nickels.

Baby Hawk was one of 21 young patients to graduate from the program, who were featured on Fox News.

“It’s been hard, but we rolled with the punches,” Nickels said. “We want to let everyone know that there is a lot of support out there for this certain [medical] situation. He is a blessing; he is our little hero and our champion.”