My Heart Belongs to Riley: Anni's Story


February 16, 2015
Topics: Heart (cardiology), Riley Kid Story



anni blog
Anni Felts, 8, Indianapolis, Ind.

It was eight years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday—the look on my obstetrician’s face when she said she saw something on my baby's heart. It was October 30, 2006, and I was 27 weeks pregnant with our fourth child. Dr. Lilly Mae Padilla’s wonderful nurse, Caroline, immediately walked me and my husband Chris from University Hospital over to Riley Hospital for Children.

A Rare Tumor

Within 15 minutes I had answers from Riley cardiologist Dr. Timothy Cordes. He told Chris and me that our baby had a pericardial teratoma and he immediately had a plan of action. Obviously we were scared, sad and emotional. But, I wish I could express in words how confident we were being at Riley. Chris and I would go to the moon and back for our children. We would have gone to any hospital to make sure our baby would receive the best medical care. But we knew immediately we were in the best hands right at home, at Riley.

My due date was January 27 and the goal was to deliver as close to that date as possible. But around Christmas time, the tumor began growing, and the doctors decided it was time to deliver.  

Expert Hands Save A Tiny Heart

Our beautiful baby girl was born on December 28. Anni was immediately baptized then rushed to Riley. Originally the plan was for Anni to have surgery to remove the tumor a week after delivery. But, within hours of her birth the decision was made to do the surgery the next morning.

Dr. John Brown was Anni’s surgeon. (Later, we would be told there were maybe five surgeons in the world who could have done this surgery and Dr. Brown was right here at Riley. Amazing!)

The tumor was so large— the size of a chicken breast—that Dr. Brown couldn't see Anni's strawberry-sized heart. Dr. Brown literally cut the tumor "blind" off of Anni's heart. The surgery went beautifully. We knew we were in the midst of a miracle. 

The next few days had a couple setbacks. Taking a newborn off a ventilator is a delicate proposition. The baby needs to remember how to breathe. But on January 4, exactly one week after her surgery, Anni came home. She had no tubes, no respirator—nothing but very nervous, very grateful and blessed parents. Anni was fine. Actually better than fine—she was perfect!

“Riley is a Gift to Our Community."

Today, Anni is 8 years old and in second grade. She is very active (she can do more than 30 pushups!) and enjoys ballet and playing softball and basketball. This year she was a junior Colts cheerleader. 

The doctors, nurses and staff at Riley were so loving and supportive. There is no way we could thank them enough for saving our Anni. 

Riley is a gift to our community. I can’t thank people enough for making contributions and ensuring we always have this kind of exceptional healthcare for the children of our state.

Click here to make a gift in support of Riley cardiology care and research through My Heart Belongs to Riley. You can choose the “tribute gift” option to honor a special Riley patient or caregiver.


Paje Felts

Paje Felts and her husband Chris are the parents of five children, including Riley cardiology patient Anni Felts. Paje works as the legislative counsel at the Indiana State Bar Association. She earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from Saint Mary-of-the Woods College. She is also a graduate of the Institute of Political Journalism at Georgetown University. She received her J.D. from the I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1991. The Felts family lives in Indianapolis.


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