November 29, 2021
Brenna Blosser from Plymouth, Indiana, was a healthy 13-month-old when her life took a sudden turn.
After fighting a cold she became inconsolable and began vomiting. Her left leg also turned ice cold. Doctors at a South Bend hospital determined her best chance for survival was an urgent helicopter flight to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. Brenna's heart was barely functioning and dangerous clots filled her arteries. Doctors would not discover the cause until later: an unknown virus had attacked Brenna's heart, causing myocarditis.
Riley Pediatric Critical Care Physician Mara Nitu, M.D., took the lead on Brenna's case, ultimately advocating for Riley Pediatric Interventional Radiologist Francis Marshalleck, M.D., to perform a procedure that had never before been done on a child of her size, breaking up a large blood clot in her femoral artery.
"Tyring the impossible is always something you need to consider in medicine," Dr. Nitu shares. "That was the one chance we had to give her."
Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Mark Hoyer M.D., led Brenna's cardiology care. Slowly she progressed from waiting on the heart transplant list to regaining normal heart function. "I joked with her mother that Brenna was getting her heart back for Valentine's Day," Dr. Nitu recalls.
Brenna's biggest remaining challenge was atrophy in her lower left leg. Despite a series of surgeries, her growth and mobility were limited. "I decided this was not a lifestyle that provided me fully with what my potential was. It was going to slow me down, so I decided to get it removed," says Brenna. "I was 11. It's a lot for a child."
"Being a teenager is a challenging time for anybody," says her father, Brad Bossler. "To have the additional challenge of the prosthetic concerned me. But she has done nothing but shine."
Today, Brenna's family remains grateful for Riley Hospital and particularly appreciative of Dr. Nitu. "She's a go-getter," says Brenna's mother, Mindi. "She finds solutions."
Those same words describe Brenna, who aspires to be a trauma surgeon. Now 17, the straight-A student at Plymouth High school manages the football team and is an avid Riley Dance Marathon participant. As Brenna says, "I don't let anything slow me down."
For other kids dealing with medical challenges, she offers this advice: "Keep it in your mind that there's always hope. This is just one thing in your life, and you have to make the best out of it."