As a 6’4” professional baseball pitcher, 29-year-old Josh Lindblom is no stranger to unforgettable moments: Throwing a no-hitter; being selected in the MLB draft; stepping onto the mound for his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers after years in the minors.
But few moments have been as precious as this one last fall: holding his infant daughter for the first time after life-saving heart surgery.
Josh had spent the past two years happily playing for the Korea Baseball Organization's Lotte Giants, where he became a fan favorite. Josh, his wife Aurielle, and their children Presley and Palmer were preparing to welcome a third child when a routine ultrasound uncovered a serious heart problem. In spite of the language barrier, “I could tell something was very wrong,” says Aurielle.
Within a week, Aurielle was back home in Lafayette, Ind., researching the best care options for Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a condition where the right side of the heart isn’t fully developed. The couple selected Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, and Josh flew home from South Korea in time for baby Monroe’s birth on October 20, 2016. They had just seconds to see Monroe before doctors began their life-saving interventions.
JOY AND HEALING
On Monroe’s seventh day of life, Riley Heart Surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D., performed a pulmonary valvotomy, widening a heart valve, and placed a BT (Blalock–Taussig) shunt to increase blood flow. “We wouldn’t want anyone else to do her surgeries,” says Aurielle. Josh adds, “Dr. Turrentine has a calm, quiet confidence. He explained exactly what he was going to do, without any hesitation or second-guessing.”
As Monroe healed, the family was blown away by Riley’s compassionate touch, from nurses, to cleaning staff, to Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Michael Johanssen, M.D., who still sees Monroe regularly. “It was not a happy experience, but it was a joyful experience,” says Josh. “The joy was in the relationships we got to build, and being in a place where we are so well cared for.”
AN ANSWERED PRAYER
With Monroe too fragile for travel and awaiting a second heart surgery, Josh braced himself to return to Korea alone. “I had one prayer,” he said. “That Indianapolis and the Pirates would be an option.”
In December of 2016, one day before Josh was set to sign a new contract with the Lotte Giants, he got an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He would either be playing in Pittsburgh, or with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. “I’m not a big believer in luck,” says Josh. “I think it was God’s providence in knowing what we needed as a family.”
The Lindbloms decided to translate their gratitude into action. They made a generous gift in support of the surgical mission work Dr. Turrentine performs in third-world countries during his vacation time. “He genuinely lives by his purpose, and his mission in life is to fix children’s hearts,” says Josh. “It’s almost like these kids become his kids.”
Did you know? Investigators in Riley’s research facility, the Wells Center for Pediatric Research, were recently awarded a 5-year Program Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The three-project program, initially launched using funding from donors, is looking at proteins involved in several phases of heart development, in hopes of paving a pathway to future medical interventions.