Nurse practitioner connects with patients who share his diagnosis

by Ryan Stephens, NP-C, MBA

At birth, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD), Tetralogy of Fallot.  My parents were given the numbing news that this would require invasive surgery and that there were no guarantees as to how I would respond to this surgical procedure.  At 9 months, I underwent surgical correction of my congenital heart defect, and the trajectory of my life took a significant turn.

My childhood was like most children, with the exception of the steady stream of cardiology appointments, images and tests. I grew up not thinking much about my CHD until I was confronted with the harsh reality of its presence in the 7th grade. “You cannot play football.” Those words hung in the air of the school administrator’s office as I wrestled with the reality of my diagnosis. It was tough. I cried.  I was so angry and disappointed.  I didn’t want to be this way. 

However, it was about this time that my pediatric cardiologist asked me to talk to a young family whose son was just diagnosed with a similar congenital heart diagnosis. It was in this conversation with this young family and seeing that young boy that I realized what I wanted to do with my professional career.  That encounter was critical, and it gifted me a different perspective that was very much needed.

Today, I am the nurse practitioner for Le Bonheur’s adolescent-adult congenital heart program.  Our goal is to help our teenagers and adults realize the importance of life-long cardiac care and partner with them as their primary cardiac care providers.

Every day, I get to interact with patients, just like myself, who are confronting the harsh reality of their CHD diagnosis in the context of adulthood.  However, I get the distinct pleasure of seeing each and every patient thrive, in his or her own way, even though they have a complex medical condition. 

I work within the Le Bonheur Heart Institute because this is where children, like me, get a chance at life.  I work with our adolescents and adults because I get to enjoy seeing them live.

This type of life-long cardiac care and support does not happen without the generous support of our Le Bonheur donors.  When you commit to “the Heart,” you are partnering with us as we strive to improve the lives of children and adults living with congenital heart disease.

Help us provide the best care for kids.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital depends on the generosity of friends like you to help us serve 250,000 children each year, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Every gift helps us improve the lives of children.

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