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No change of heart for 11-year-old Buckeyes fan headed to Michigan, Ohio State game

Ohio State fan who made national headlines for his “Michigan heart” to cheer on Buckeyes at the Big House

Dr. Ronald Grifka and Ivan Applin reunite Ivan's heart procedure at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ronald Grifka and Ivan Applin reunite after Ivan’s heart procedure at Mott earlier this year.

As momentum builds for Saturday’s football game between the twelvth-ranked Wolverines and the No.8 Buckeyes, 11-year-old Ivan Applin is preparing to watch the historical rivalry unfold for the first time in the stands.

The young Buckeyes fan, who had a heart procedure at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan this summer, made national headlines after he asked his now famous question: Would the U-M doctor would make his heart love Michigan instead of Ohio State?

A week after Ivan’s 11th birthday, the University of Michigan Health System is sending him and three family members to the Big House to see the rivals face off on the field.

So … does his heart feel any differently?

“I was really nervous but they told me ‘no we won’t change you into a Michigan fan,’” Ivan recalls about the August procedure with Mott pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ronald Grifka. “They didn’t. I still love Ohio State.”

The Toledo fourth grader was referred to Mott’s Congenital Heart Center to repair a heart defect called atrial septal defect, which meant he had holes in his heart resulting in too much blood flowing to his lungs. The procedure involved placing a small catheter into a vein in Ivan’s leg, advancing the catheter into his heart and inserting a heart device that acts as a plug to close the holes. Ivan was able to recover fully in time to play soccer this school year.

Ivan's story was shared by several national media outlets, from the Washington Post to ESPN's SportCenter.

Ivan’s story was shared by several national media outlets, from the Washington Post to ESPN’s SportCenter.

Ivan’s concern about Dr. Grifka potentially changing his fanhood during the procedure was shared by numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, ESPN’s SportsCenter, USA Today, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, the Big Ten Network, the Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, Sports Blog Nation, Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports. He also appeared on local Toledo news stations and was named an honorary captain of the Ohio State soccer team.

His mother Jennifer said Ivan, who was adopted at age six from a Russian orphanage, hopes the attention may help him find his biological siblings. His two sisters were adopted from the same orphanage by another American family.

Ivan Applin (center) at an OSU game this year with mom Jennifer and brother Connor.

Ivan Applin (center) at an OSU game this year with mom Jennifer and brother Connor.

“We were definitely surprised by how fast Ivan’s story traveled and all of the places it ended up,” Jennifer Applin says. “It was really fun to see fans from both sides of the rivalry share positive comments about Ivan. So many Michigan fans said they would never root for a Buckeye except for this one.

“We are excited to experience the energy and enthusiasm at the game,” she adds. “We love Ohio State but certainly have a soft spot for Michigan where Ivan was so well taken care of.”

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mott blog - logo thumbUniversity 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.