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Hayden Dietz: 2024 Riley Champion

Hayden Dietz: 2024 Riley Champion
Hayden Dietz: 2024 Riley Champion

Hayden Dietz took his first steps the night before he underwent heart surgery at Riley Children’s Health. He had just been diagnosed with mitral valve regurgitation, which causes a backward flow of blood to the heart.

Hayden’s parents, Anne and Cory, first became concerned when he stopped gaining weight around his four-month checkup. After several visits to their local pediatrician in Fort Wayne, they were referred for routine testing, and an abnormal chest x-ray led to an echocardiogram. During her drive home from the procedure, Anne received the call that the family needed to drive to Indianapolis so Hayden could be admitted to Riley Children’s the next morning.

After valve replacement surgery, Hayden started thriving, but Anne still sensed that something was off. Riley Children’s cardiologist Mark Hoyer, M.D., did additional testing and discovered Hayden’s congenital heart defect – ALCAPA (anomalous origin of the left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery), a birth defect that results in this coronary artery not receiving properly oxygenated blood. Left untreated, it has a mortality rate of up to 90% in infancy. In Hayden’s case, ALCAPA had contributed to the failure of his mitral valve. He underwent another surgery to reposition the coronary artery to its proper location. Since then, he’s had one other valve replacement surgery, and Dr. Hoyer continues to monitor him carefully as he grows.

The 16-year-old easily describes his relationship with his cardiologist as “tight.” Going beyond teenage lingo, Hayden shares that Dr. Hoyer is like a third parent. “If there is something that’s bothering me that is health-related, I can go to him and he’ll always give me an answer that he thinks is best for me.” Anne echoes that Hayden’s Riley caregivers have been “tremendous blessings.”

Hayden Dietz rides a bicycle
Hayden Dietz

Because he takes a blood thinner, Hayden needs to avoid certain activities like contact sports. Instead, he enjoys playing golf, riding his bike, and hanging out with friends.

As a Riley Champion, he’s taking strides toward being a role model for other Riley kids and helping them feel comfortable in their own skin. “It took me quite a bit to be comfortable about my scars since some people would stare,” he recalls. “The older I got I realized that it’s not something that’s going to go away, so might as well show that it’s a symbol of your strength and something you’ve conquered.”