Jaren Berg a patient at the Mayo Clinic was nominated to receive a once-in-a-lifetime experience through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. When Jaren was asked about his wish, he didn't hesitate to choose attending a game at U.S. Bank Stadium to watch wide receiver Adam Thielen and the other Vikings in person.
EAGAN, Minn. – It took a minute for Jaren Berg to find his voice when his favorite Vikings player greeted him after the team's walk-through session on Aug. 3.
Jaren, wearing a purple No. 19 jersey, was all smiles as he received autographs from Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter and Dalvin Cook. But when Adam Thielen walked over, shook his hand and autographed an official game-day football, his reaction said it all.
"I don't know," Jaren later told Vikings.com with a giggle. "I was like, 'What the –' I don't know."
After several seconds of awe, Jaren introduced himself to Thielen and answered the receivers' questions about where he had traveled from – Minot, North Dakota – and what position he plays. The soon-to-be fifth-grader explained that he plays center and asked Thielen what position he played at the same age.
"When I was in fifth grade, we didn't even have tackle football," Thielen shared with a laugh.
Thielen pulled out a pair of yellow gloves and added his signature to them before handing them to an excited Jaren, who already balanced two footballs in his hands.
Fortunately, he had just enough room to accept a final gift.
Thielen presented Jaren with a pair of tickets to the Vikings-Saints game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 28, and the young fan's jaw dropped.
Jaren became emotional as he accepted the tickets from Thielen, who added an invitation for Jaren to attend the Saturday-morning practice with the team prior to the game. At that, Jaren began to cry in gratitude.
It's been a long road for the dedicated Vikings fan, who three years ago started having seizures.
Jaren's parents, Michelle and Daniel, explained that he was initially diagnosed with epilepsy and began treatment. But even after increases in medication time, the symptoms didn't seem to be alleviated. When the medication began affecting Jaren's school work, the Bergs decided to seek a second opinion.
The family traveled to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where Jaren was seen by another neurologist who decided to run some additional tests and discovered that Jaren has Long QT syndrome, which is a genetic heart-rhythm disorder.
"We got to see Dr. [Michael] Ackerman, who's the Long QT guru," Michelle said. "What we thought was just going to be a couple days turned into a 12-day stay."
Jaren underwent a procedure to remove nerves to his heart and ultimately ended up having an internal defibrillator placed, which will shock his heart into rhythm if necessary.
"Long QT syndrome can cause sudden cardiac death," Michelle explained. "He's just going to live his life now. We're so thankful that it didn't end in [another way]. I think back to the what-ifs now. Like, what if we didn't catch this?"
Added Daniel: "He had eight seizures through that time frame and basically was going into cardiac arrest eight times and was waking up from that."
During Jaren's time at Mayo, he was nominated to receive a once-in-a-lifetime experience through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. When Jaren was asked about his wish, he didn't hesitate to choose attending a game at U.S. Bank Stadium to watch Thielen and the other Vikings in person.
"The Vikings kind of were what pulled him through his hospital stay," Michelle said. "He had a [Vikings] blanket and hats, and he watched them on Thanksgiving when he was in the hospital.
"So when it came time to pick a wish, he was like, 'I want to go to a Vikings game. I want to go to U.S. Bank Stadium,' " she added. "And they made it happen. It's amazing."
Thielen told Jaren that he was inspired by his courage and positive attitude amidst such difficult challenges.
"It's pretty special," Thielen told Vikings.com. "And then to see his emotions come out when he received the tickets, that's pretty cool. We want to make an impact on other people's lives, and when you see emotions like that come out, it's pretty cool."
After spending time with Thielen, Jaren received autographs from other players who came over to greet him and encourage him, including Minnesota's group of four quarterbacks, led by Kirk Cousins. The Vikings newest passer talked with Jaren about his experience with youth football.
"I love centers!" Cousins explained, extending his hand to Jaren for a fist bump.
While Long QT is incurable, Jaren has not suffered a seizure since being diagnosed and starting treatment. And because the condition is managed through medication and the defibrillator, and he has been cleared by doctors – at least for the time being – to continue playing football and other sports.
"I hope this gives him motivation to continue with athletics and what he can do, even though he does have a heart condition," Michelle said.
As she and Daniel stood by and took in the interactions between Jaren and the players, their sentiment matched that of their son.
Michelle said the experience played out exactly how she had imagined it would.
"It just warms my heart," she said. "He's been through so much this last year, these past three years, and it's a dream come true for him. It just makes me so happy and proud of him."
"It's emotional, very emotional, but to see the reward and see Jaren so happy [is wonderful]," said Daniel, who added that it was difficult to keep the surprise a secret. "He'll never forget this for the rest of his life."