As Chris and Paje Felts prepared for their fourth child’s birth, their biggest concern was making sure no one ruined the surprise of the baby’s gender. The uneventful pregnancy quickly changed at a routine ultrasound at Indiana University Hospital. Dr. Lillie-Mae Padilla saw a large mass around the baby’s heart. She called and then walked them over to Riley Hospital for Children within minutes. Worried and concerned, the Felts then learned that their unborn baby had a tumor growing around her small heart. Riley doctors determined that Anni’s tumor was a rare, benign pericardial teratoma.
Remaining in her mother’s womb would give Anni the best chance of surviving. With 13 weeks left in the gestation period, doctors suggested waiting as long as possible before delivery and not performing surgery inside the womb. The tumor began to grow, but Anni was healthy enough to deliver. She was born on Dec. 28, 2006.
She was immediately taken to the Riley Heart Center and prepared for surgery. Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Dr. John Brown, began surgery on the largest tumor he had ever seen. The tumor was the only thing that he could see because it blocked all view of Anni’s heart.
“In over 30 years of practice, I’ve never seen a tumor like this one,” he said.
Dr. Brown was able to remove the “snowman” shaped tumor safely by removing sections at a time. No harm was done to Anni’s heart. Just one week after surgery, the Felts were able to take their daughter home.
“We were scared about the surgery, and Dr. Brown told us, ‘I’m going to treat her like she’s my granddaughter,’” Paje said. “During the surgery, we had a nurse who continually gave us updates. Everyone was really wonderful and so kind.”
Today, Annie is full of zest. She has grown pretty curls and is her daddy’s girl. She entertains her family with her keen sense of comedic timing and energy. She has natural athletic ability and is about to begin ballet class. Anni is now a proud and helpful big sister to a younger sister, Genevieve.
She has yearly check-ups at Riley with Dr. Cordes, but will eventually be able to discontinue those appointments because she is doing so well. Anni is a happy and healthy girl that keeps her family and friends on their toes because of Dr. Brown and her caregivers at Riley.