Chad Keown

chad champ image
Chad Keown, Sharpsville, Ind.

In the last two years, Chad Keown of Sharpsville, Ind., has overcome nearly insurmountable odds in learning to eat, talk and walk again after a traumatic brain injury. When the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund offered him his heart’s desire, the selfless 17-year-old chose to start a traveling coffee cart at his high school to teach other special needs kids useful skills. “I wanted to give back to my school because they supported me in my time of need,” he explains.

Three Riley Hospital physicians were on hand at the grand opening of Chad’s Café at Tri-Central High School in February 2017: Riley’s medical director for pediatric rehabilitation, Chuck Dietzen, M.D; pediatric cardiologist Anne Farrell, M.D. (who was also standing in for surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D.); and surgeon Matthew Landman, M.D. To Chad’s mother, they represented the care Chad received at RIley for his brain, heart, and lungs.

A month after Chad was born on September 25, 2000, Dr. Turrentine performed the first of three open-heart surgeries for congenital heart disease. Chad was stable and able to attend school and walk a mile every day on a treadmill.

Everything changed on Dec. 5, 2015, when a lung hemorrhage set off a chain of events that brought Chad to Riley’s operating room with uncontrolled bleeding and in full cardiac arrest. Dr. Landman removed most of one lung. Chad was on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) for heart and breathing support, and underwent five bedside surgeries.

Chad’s medical team told James and Lisa Keown that lack of oxygen during the crisis had caused severe injury to their son’s brain. Sadly, hospice care was an option. “We told them, ‘We really do appreciate you, but we want to put it in God’s hands,’” Lisa recalls.

“I’ll be honest with you – the future didn’t look very bright,” says Riley Pediatric Intensivist Kamal Abulebda, M.D. “Now, knowing Chad after the injury, he is probably one of the strongest patients I’ve ever seen.”

Chad not only fought back, but once he started rehabilitation in March 2016, reached every goal set for him and formed an especially strong bond with Dr. Dietzen. 

Chad chose patriotic colors for his café in tribute to his veteran grandfathers. And inspired by “Dr. Chuck’s” philanthropic efforts, Chad envisions even more cafés in other facilities. “I want to leave a legacy,” he says.

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