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10-year-old boy worried about how Mott doctor may change his heart: Don’t make me a Michigan fan

Five years after being adopted from Russia, Toledo fourth grader becomes among first in Michigan to benefit from new device for congenital heart defect

After receiving care at Mott's Congenital Heart Center, Buckeye fan Ivan Applin, 10, may have just a little room for Michigan in his heart.

After receiving care at Mott’s Congenital Heart Center, Buckeye fan Ivan Applin, 10, may have just a little room for Michigan in his heart.

As pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ronald Grifka showed 10-year-old Ivan Applin the wire-framed device that would be used to fix the holes in his heart, the Toledo fourth grader had just one burning concern.

“He asked if the Michigan doctors were going to make his heart love University of Michigan instead of Ohio State,” his mother Jennifer laughs.

No, he would wake up loving the Buckeyes just as much as he ever did, Dr. Grifka, assured him. The procedure would also mean he could better enjoy his favorite activities, like soccer, for many more years to come.


Ivan is among the first patients in Michigan to receive a newly-FDA-approved device used to repair a heart defect known as atrial septal defect. Children born with this condition have a hole in their heart that interferes with proper blood flow to their organs.

The Congenital Heart Center at University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is nationally renowned for its decades-long work repairing heart defects but only recently began using the new device called Cardioform, which has been touted for using less metal and increasing patient safety. The device, made out of a synthetic, permeable fabric over a thin wire frame, acts like a plug  that is designed to close holes in the heart.

Read an update story on Ivan here.

Ivan’s heart had several holes starting from birth that grew larger as he got older, resulting in too much blood flowing to his lungs and enlarging his heart. Untreated, the condition can cause problems ranging from shortness of breath to increased risk of stroke in the future.

Dr. Grifka, of Mott’s Congenital Heart Center team, performed what’s called a cardiac catheterization. The procedure involved placing a small catheter into a vein in Ivan’s leg, advancing the catheter into his heart and inserting the new device.

Ivan was walking and eating later the same day and able to return home the following morning. He had no incision, stitches or blood transfusion, and will be able to return to normal activities within a few weeks.

“We were glad Ivan could benefit from this procedure at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Technology is continuing to evolve to give us greater options that reduce the need for surgical procedures and minimize risk of complications,” says Grifka.

“Our emphasis is always on ensuring our patients have access to the most advanced treatments available.  We’re pleased to be able to add this device to the array of options we’re able to work with to best meet the needs of patients like Ivan safely and effectively ”

Ivan’s procedure at Mott is just one more chapter of his incredible 10-year journey.

In the process of adopting both Ivan and their daughter Yana from the same Russian orphanage five years ago, parents Jennifer and Neal learned about Ivan’s heart defect. They had many questions but not many answers until they brought the then 6-year-olds home to Toledo to join the couple’s four biological children ages four to nine at the time.

Jennifer and Neal Applin had four biological children before adopting Ivan and Yana from Russia in 2010. From left to right): Children Connor, Owen, Yana, Tyler, Lydia and Ivan.

Jennifer and Neal Applin had four biological children before adopting Ivan and Yana from Russia in 2010. Children Connor, Owen, Yana, Tyler, Lydia and Ivan (from left to right).

Ivan’s doctors in Toledo had hoped the defect would close on its own but when it didn’t, they referred him to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s Congenital Heart Center.

“We are so happy that Ivan could be treated at Michigan in a way that allows him to get back to normal kid life soon,” Jennifer says. “Repairing this defect now will improve his quality of life and help him keep doing the activities he loves and run around with his siblings.”

The Applins decided to adopt after hosting Yana in Toledo through a program intended to give kids from the orphanage an international experience in 2009. Another family from their church hosted Ivan. While Ivan and Yana were not biological siblings, they had been living with each other in the orphanage as long as they could remember and the Applins “fell in love” with both, Jennifer says. They adopted both children in 2010.

Now that his heart procedure is over, Ivan has just one more persistent question.

“He keeps asking me to take out the calendar and show him the exact day his recovery period is officially over so he can stop resting,” Jennifer says. “He wants to make sure it’s in time for his first soccer practice.”

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Best Children's Hospitals - C.S. Mott Children's HospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.