On March 5, 2013, Caitlin and Brian Faus welcomed their first child, a son named Bryson. It was the best day of their lives. But in less than 24 hours, joy turned to panic when doctors told the Fauses that Bryson had a life-threatening congenital heart defect. A LifeLine flight to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health was Bryson's best chance at survival -- if he survived the journey from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis.
"We were told to take pictures because they weren't sure he would make it to Riley. That was the hardest thing I'd ever heard," Caitlin said.
Bryson did make it to Riley. Even now, he likes to defy the odds stacked against him. "One time a friend told me, 'You can't shoot a basket 'cause you're too small!' Well, I proved him wrong," Bryson said with a smile.
Soon after landing at Riley, Bryson was stabilized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and his parents and grandparents were able to see him.
"When we walked through that door we could breathe a sigh of relief and know he is in the best hands possible," Caitlin said.
Further testing showed that Bryson had a combination of heart defects that were extremely rare. The chances of one of them alone, an interrupted aortic arch, is one in a million. Bryson underwent his first open heart surgery at 7 days old. To date, he has had 13 surgeries on his heart and kidneys.
Today, Bryson is an active 8-year-old who loves singing and dancing, baseball, robots, and Legos. He returns to Riley for regular visits with Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Mark Hoyer, M.D., and Riley Pediatric Urologist Richard Rink, M.D.
The Fauses are amazed by the genuine care of Riley's staff. "They walk in the room and it's as if they instantly know Bryson and us," Caitlin said.
Bryson participates in Riley Dance Marathons and loves raising awareness. "I want to help other kids like me just in case they are afraid," he said.
Bryson will need several more heart surgeries throughout his life. But for the Faus family, coming back to Riley feels like coming home. Caitlin says that walking through the hospital's doors still brings the same wave of relief as their first visit. "We're at Riley. We're good."