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Dad posts empowering selfies with son born with heart defect

Robert and Fallot Selby (ABC News photo)

One Virginia dad has a touching tradition with his son, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.

When Robert Selby became a first-time dad in October 2013 he told ABC News he wasn't prepared when they diagnosed his son Chase with Tetralogy of Fallot, or a congenital heart defect, the same day he was set to go home.

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Tetralogy of Fallot is a very rare heart defect, affecting 5 out of every 10,000 babies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It's also the same defect late night host Jimmy Kimmel's son was diagnosed with earlier this month.

"I was devastated because ... you never prepare for the what ifs," he continued. "You prepare for the gender, the baby shower, everything positive. But you never prepare for that what if, like what if my child has this type of defect or something is really wrong with him?"

The Woodbridge, Virginia, dad, who co-parents with Chase's mother, said his son had to undergo heart surgery at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He also had other complications. Chase, who was born at 5 pounds and 2 ounces, had to spend more than three months in the hospital because of his size.

When Chase was strong enough to go home he needed to be outfitted with a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, for feeding since he had been in the hospital for months and hadn't yet learned how to eat orally.

After he turned six months, a milestone for him, Robert Selby, 33, decided to show solidarity with his son by gluing a g tube to his own stomach and posing for photos. He continued this tradition every year, including this year.

This year's photo has gone viral on Facebook with 27,000 people liking or loving it.

The tradition has also served as a teaching moment for Chase Selby, who can now eat orally during the day and relies on his g tube at night.

"Last year, he asked, 'Dad, why do I have a g tube and you don't? I said, 'Well son, only superheroes have a g tube. This is your special power. You're my super baby,'" Selby said.

Not only has the experience empowered his now 3-year-old son, but Selby said it also appears to have inspired thousands of parents online.

"When Chase was diagnosed, I didn't have anybody to go to. But when I went online and saw other parents ... that gave me the inspiration. It gave me comfort," he recalled.

"So I'm just trying to be a light to somebody that's going through the same situation to let them know everything will be alright," Robert Selby added.

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