There's much about his two open-heart surgeries that Healdsburg 13-year-old Colby Groom doesn't remember, and doesn't care to.
The quick-to-laugh lad with large brown eyes does recall an incident that followed his first operation, an attempt to repair a congenitally faulty heart valve when he was 8.
"It hurt so much that I was yelling that the guy was killing me," Colby exclaimed.
His dad, Australia-born winemaker Daryl Groom, remembers that painful moment, too, and many others.
"We saw Colby suffer a lot," he said.
Groom said he and his wife, Lisa, and Colby's three sisters, Lauren, who's now 23; Meg, 21, and Kara, 18, "sat with tears while waiting for him to come out of surgery."
The repair on the aortic valve didn't hold. So nine months later surgeons cut again into Colby's chest and replaced the leaky valve with a mechanical one.
His mother wasn't entirely sold on the man-made valve, but it's worked like a Swiss watch. And like a watch, the device emits a steady click that's audible on the rare occasions Colby is still and quiet.
Initially, Lisa Groom found the clicking disconcerting. But after four years of flawless operation on her son's heart, she said, "it's quite a reassuring sound."
As soon as Colby was up and about after the second surgery, the then 9-year-old began to act on a desire to show his gratitude and help advance research into congenital heart defects. "I don't want any other kids to die because there aren't solutions," he said.
He began taking part in benefit walks and other events of the American Heart Association. In 2007, Colby handed the organization the $1,070 he took in by setting up a tent and offering to let folks see his scars and listen to the ticking — in exchange for a donation.
"I've always had a little bit of that urge to help other people," said Colby, a seventh grader at the private Healdsburg School. His devotion drove sister Meg, at age 17, to join with a friend and organize an auction that brought the Heart Association almost $30,000.
Colby thought about how he might do even more for heart-health research and for camps and other services for kids who endure heart defects. Early last year he floated an idea to his dad.
"Colby came to me on a Sunday afternoon and said he wanted us to make a wine together," Groom recalled.
Making wine is something Colby's father does well. While still in his native Australia, Groom made Penfolds Grange, one of the most expensive and collectible red wines anywhere.
He and Lisa brought their family to Sonoma County in 1989 and he soon became renowned for transforming the wines and standing of Geyser Peak. The winner of several "Winemaker of the Year" titles, Groom now bottles premium Australian wines with his own label, Groom Wines.
As he recalls, when his son first proposed that the two of them make a wine, "I was watching football and I just shrugged him off."
Colby persisted, days later telling his father they could make some money for heart research and services for young heart patients if they'd make and sell a wine and donate the profits.
Groom recalls telling him, "It's a lot of work." Colby said he was up to it. Within months there was born a blend of Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, merlot and petite sirah that they called Colby Red.