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Zane Hendrickson

November 29, 2022

At age 17, Boonville High School senior Zane Hendrickson feels like he has already lived two lives: one before, and one after he “died.” His dry sense of humor is alive and well, however, and he doesn’t hold back when asked to describe himself. “Put ‘incredible,’” he says, with dramatic emphasis. “And then you can put ‘humble.’”

During a swim practice in January 2021, Zane was hit hard with exhaustion and pain. “It felt like I got punched in the stomach really hard.” He began convulsing and was rushed to Deaconess Gateway Hospital in Newburgh, Indiana. His mother, Christa Hendrickson, recalls watching Zane struggling to pull off his mask in the emergency room. “He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ and he went into cardiac arrest,” she says.

That was the first of eight times Zane’s heart stopped. His medical team called Riley Children’s Health for consultation. Together, they determined Zane needed to be put on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a life support system, and he needed to get to Riley. Riley Pediatric Critical Care physician Riad Lutfi, M.D., helped the Deaconess team arrange for Zane to be placed on ECMO, which they didn’t typically offer for children. But there was one more problem: Riley was not equipped to transport a child on ECMO.

Dr. Lutfi, along with many others at Riley and Deaconess, partnered with the adult ECMO transport team from IU Health Methodist Hospital to coordinate the complex overnight transport. “I think if we had not made those last-minute, out-of-the-box decisions, he would not be with us,” says Dr. Lutfi. “It took a lot of people willing to do things they had never done.”

At Riley, Pediatric Cardiologist Timothy Cordes, M.D., found Zane’s hidden heart defect, which Riley Pediatric Heart Surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D., was able to repair. Zane suffered many other setbacks, including a stroke during his hospitalization, but made a remarkable recovery.

Zane Hendrickson

Today, Zane is back in school earning straight As and coaching his school swim team. He has shared his story at his school’s Riley Dance Marathon and the WIKY Riley Radiothon, and is organizing a swim-a-thon fundraiser in hopes of supporting ECMO transport for Riley patients. He receives follow-up care for heart failure from Riley Pediatric Cardiologist John J. Parent, M.D., and nurse practitioner Nichole Gralia, who nominated him for the Champions program.

“They’ve definitely inspired me,” Zane says of his medical team. The inspiration goes both ways according to Dr. Lutfi. “When we see such a good outcome from a tough case it gives us a big boost of energy. His resilience keeps us going.”