I had a show two weeks from that Saturday,” the 18-year-old guitarist and singer explains. “I was going to play that show, even if I played it sitting down.” Two weeks later Alex performed with his punk pop/rock band We Are Forever to a sold-out crowd of 500 at the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis. During the final round of applause, he noticed he wasn’t tired. “Wow, that was a great feeling,” Alex recalls.
Alex was three months old when he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve. Doctors told his parents Dave and Annette Nauth that he would need surgery before he was 15, but two angioplasties bought Alex more time. “When I saw Dr. [Robert] Darragh for my annual checkup, he said, ‘Well, for graduation, I’m going to get you a new heart valve.’”
In anticipation of the surgery, Alex loaded up on classes and graduated early from Lawrence Central High School in December 2011. On February 21, 2012, Riley heart surgeon John Brown, M.D., replaced Alex’s leaking aortic valve with his pulmonary valve, and then replaced his pulmonary valve with a donated one.
Until surgery was imminent, Alex focused more on his interests than his heart condition. “I had it all my life,” he says. “I guess I never really knew what ‘normal’ was.” He was able to play baseball and basketball until middle school. But Annette believes that being restricted from football magnified her son’s interest in music. His ability was always there, she adds: “He aced AP music theory, and he has perfect pitch.”
Alex has performed with several bands since he was 14 and writes most of the music for We Are Forever. Thanks to his surgery, he now has the energy to work two jobs between tours with the band. Alex will study music technology at IUPUI this fall to further prepare him for a career in music.
“When I’m writing a song, I just sit down and noodle for awhile on the guitar, until I play something I like. From one little idea, I hear something and can write a song around it.” Alex says his experience at Riley Hospital - and especially his compassion for children whose recovery will not be as quick as his own - will “most definitely” work its way into his music.
A Piece of Riley June 27, 2019
I am the Riley Wagon. I mean a lot of things to different people. I'm also a way for donors, like the Burr family, to give back to Riley Hospital for Children.×
Be the Star You Are May 22, 2019
Check out this behind the scenes look at the 2019 Riley Cancer Center Prom.×
Meet Rowan Breyts March 19, 2019
A baby dies in Indiana about every 14 hours. Rowan Breyts was not one of them. However, he came dangerously close.×
Christian's Research Story December 19, 2018
Learn how Riley research helped save Christian Daugherty's life.×
Kennedy's Story: How Family Support Helps December 19, 2018
Watch the Strayer Family's story about their Riley journey.×
Sheila and Jameson's Story December 19, 2018
Sheila Dolan shares how the donor-funded Riley Maternity and Newborn Health team saved her life, and her son’s life.×
Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids December 19, 2018
We have launched a $175 million campaign for Riley Hospital to save kids’ lives through three high-priority programs.×
Riley Leadership Message December 19, 2018
Hear from Riley leadership about supporting Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids.×
2018 Race for Riley October 8, 2018
Congratulations to Race for Riley on 22 years and nearly $4 million raised for the kids at Riley Hospital.×
Meet Hunter Schermerhorn September 27, 2018
A phone call from Hunter’s school nurse turned a life changing cancer diagnosis for the Schermerhorn family. See how Riley research is helping kids like Hunter and his family find the answers they desperately need.×