When you ask 12-year-old Savanna Evans to describe her experience at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, she is quick to respond, “Very fun!” It’s not what you expect to hear from a girl who underwent heart surgery.
Maleaha and Brandon Evans from Bedford, Ind., were surprised to learn that their newborn baby had a heart condition: pulmonary stenosis. Severe scarring of the pulmonary valve was causing significant pressure to build up and overload Savanna’s heart. She needed expert care and was transferred to Riley Hospital.
Since Savanna weighed only 5 pounds at birth, Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Mark Hoyer, M.D., delayed surgery until Savanna was one month old. The procedure involved inserting a balloon catheter through a vein in her leg to tear the scarring and allow the valve to open more freely. “The skill that Dr. Hoyer had and God’s hand in everything made our experience perfect,” Maleaha said.
The Riley Heart Center is one of the nation’s top 15 high-volume heart programs for effective outcomes. Dr. Hoyer likens it to a puzzle. “We have the complete set of people, from respiratory therapists to surgeons, to take care of any issue. Our job is to find the best combination of those pieces to take care of that particular patient,” he says.
For Savanna, the Heart Center team found a winning combination. “I don’t feel like I get tired at all,” she says. Her energy is impressive given all of her interests, from playing multiple sports and spending time outside with her cousins to participating in 4-H and caring for animals on her grandparents’ farm. Savanna also proudly raises money in support of heart research to help other kids. As Maleaha shared, “We don’t ever let her heart condition hold her back.”
Support from Riley Children’s Foundation makes outcomes for heart patients like Savanna possible. “We like to be able to offer state-of-the-art technology and treatment options,” said Dr. Hoyer. “The donor support we get is vital and so greatly appreciated.”
Today, Savanna knows Riley as a place with “very kind” staff. She laughs easily and dreams of owning a farm someday. Thanks to Riley, her heart will be able to keep up with her, every step of the way.