Soccer field

A child is recovering from heart surgery and is now back on the football pitch

CLEVELAND — Megan Sidley loves sports.

“I did gymnastics, swimming, dancing and cheerleading,” she said.

The 4th grader prefers football.

“I really like being with my teammates,” Megan said.

But in January 2020, the then 8-year-old started having trouble breathing while on the pitch.

What do you want to know

  • When Megan Sidley was 8, she underwent open-heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic after doctors discovered she had three holes in her heart.
  • The active little girl is now back to playing the sports she loves, like soccer
  • Dr. Hani Najm of the Cleveland Clinic stated that 99.99% of all congenital heart damage is repairable; early detection and follow-up are essential

“So I started not feeling good when I was like running around in the field and stuff,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe very well when I was running.”

It was something that her mother, Joyce, also understood. She has been a nurse for over 20 years.

“I noticed she was really short of breath and never complained,” she said. “She kept chasing the ball, but as soon as she hit the ball, she started to hold her chest and take these breaths, and I thought something was wrong. I better do it. take her to a doctor. But honestly, I thought she would love to have sports-induced asthma.

But after being given a full checkup by a doctor, the family learned that Megan had three holes in her heart.

“It was devastating,” Joyce said. “Then Megan was sitting right there. So even though I was devastated, I still try to smile, you know, and act like everything is fine. But, I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. . They showed us, you know, her heart on the ultrasound and her heart got bigger. She had blood going to her lungs. And I felt so guilty that as a nurse, I didn’t. didn’t understand earlier, that I made him run like that on the field.

After heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in June 2020, Megan was sidelined for three months to recover. It was difficult for the active little girl.

“I love football and I didn’t know how long it was going to be before I could play it again. So I was a little nervous,” Megan said. “I always looked out the window and all my friends were playing and stuff, playing basketball, and I was just sitting inside.”

But she quickly bounced back. Megan plays football for two teams, including the Upper 90 Futbol Club in northeast Ohio. Megan missed her teammates and the sport so much after the surgery that doctors gave her the green light to work on foot skills with coach Tony before she rushes back.

“I feel great,” Megan said. “I can breathe better and I can run without having difficulty breathing.”

“I’m so proud of you, Megan,” Joyce said. “Believe me, I think about it every game. I can’t even believe she’s out there doing what she loves. She’s a kid and she’s enjoying life and the world. team. They’re her friends and it’s just, it’s really a happy ending. She got her childhood back.

Joyce said this message to others:

“Follow your instincts,” she said. “I mean, Megan, when I first mentioned she was in trouble, everyone looked at me and said, ‘Oh my God, she’s one of the best players on the game. ground! But I said something was wrong and listen to your instincts. Ask your doctors.”

Joyce said Megan’s doctors told her she needed to rest for 90 days after the surgery and after exactly 90 days she was back on the field at a football game.

Doctors diagnosed Megan with Crohn’s disease shortly after she returned to football and is now scheduled to receive infusions every four weeks at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Joyce said it was likely due to all the stress of open-heart surgery.

Megan was adopted at birth and the congenital heart defect went undetected for years despite regular checkups.

Dr. Hani Najm, chair of pediatric and adult congenital heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, said some things parents should watch out for are changes in your child’s behavior or activity level, shortness of breath and blue fingernails or lips.

In Megan’s case, Najm said they caught the heart issue early enough that it didn’t cause permanent damage.

“I think his prospects are exceptional,” he said. “From what we know from the medical literature, this type of defect, once fixed, they do very well for the rest of their lives. The likelihood of her needing another operation is very low, if ever, and the possibility that she could actually participate in all the sports she wants would be highly anticipated. In fact, I know there are many famous athletes who have had some of these injuries that have been repaired in childhood and who live very normally.

Najm said 99.99% of all congenital heart damage is repairable. Early detection and follow-up are essential.