Riley nurse using her journey with congenital heart defects to relate to families

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A nurse at Riley Hospital for Children is using her journey with congenital heart defects to relate to families in a special way.

Sarah Crider was born with several congenital heart defects. She had surgery as a baby and again just last year. Diagnoses like hers happen in one out of every 100 babies. They are little survivors thanks to medical advances, but as a patient herself, Crider is able to really put her heart into her career.

“I think the care is best provided by individuals who understand the complexity and nuances of congenital heart defects,” Dr. Larry Markham, a pediatric cardiologist at Riley Hospital for Children, said.

Just like the families in the Riley Heart Center receiving a diagnosis or preparing for surgery, Crider and her family did exactly that when she was a baby.

“I’m able to share that I also had a diagnosis as a baby and I have now had a full life and was able to grow up and enjoy sports and enjoy doing things I was able to do and have a career and I think that’s empowering for them,” Crider said.

As someone who knows exactly what waking up from surgery is like, Crider shares tips about pain management and healing with her patients. She said when her patients know she’s experienced it too, they tend to take her advice to heart.

“She’s very similar to a lot of our other patients that they’ve had this condition their whole life and have learned to deal with it,” Dr. Markham said.

It seems like a perfect fit having a heart patients as a heart nurse, but it wasn’t until six years into her teaching career that Crider realized her true calling.

“I had this magical moment where I sat down and really thought about the magic that was happening here. They were keeping these little hearts beating that shouldn’t necessarily be beating. Now it seems silly that I didn’t consider that to begin with, but I really love what I do,” Crider said.

Now as a teacher turned nurse, she’s using American Heart Month to educate people about diagnoses like hers and that of 40,000 children each year.

“Unless you are thrust into that world a lot of people don’t even consider it or know about it. There are lots of people out there with a congenital heart defect that keep going every day despite any limitations or issues going on and they strive to live long happy lives,” Crider said.