Dr. Valentine and team care for young heart patients




Riley’s Heart Center celebrates heart warriors this Valentine’s Day and every day.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

The Hallmark Channel couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Paging Dr. Valentine, please report to the Heart Center.

Dr. Kevin Valentine has been tending to the hearts of young patients as an ICU physician in Riley Hospital for Children’s cardiovascular intensive care unit since 2014.

At this time of year, he’s used to the jokes and to seeing his photocopied image plastered up and down the hallways of 3 East next to the hand sanitizers.

It’s all in good fun, and the kids certainly get a kick out of it, even making Valentine’s for Dr. Valentine, like 2-year-old Junior Aylor did in the CVICU on Monday, the day before Valentine’s Day.

But Dr. Valentine didn’t go into the field of cardiac medicine because of his name. He went into medicine to help people, and for him, the heart and all of its intricacies is his passion.

That’s why working at Riley (the best in the Midwest for pediatric heart care, according to U.S. News & World Report’s most recent rankings) means so much to him and the team that surrounds him.

As associate medical director of the CVICU, he is one member of a team that works with cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists to take care of medically fragile kids. Once they graduate out of the ICU, they go to the step-down unit, where cardiologists or neonatologists will coordinate their care until they go home.

“We have an outstanding multidisciplinary team,” the physician said. “Outstanding nurses, nursing leadership, director of pharmacy, a dedicated nutritionist, respiratory therapists … a big team of people who could probably go anywhere in the country and they choose to stay here at Riley and work in this Heart Center.”

Carrie Davison leads the nursing team as clinical manager of the CVICU, where the sickest patients stay – those with congenital or acquired heart disease who are too sick to be home, and those recovering from heart surgery.

“I appreciate and love this team,” Davison said. “Since we opened the CVICU in 2014, we have moved up in the U.S. News rankings from No. 29 to being in the top 10 for the past four years.”

Currently, Riley’s cardiology program is ranked sixth in the nation and No. 1 in the Midwest.

It is a feat made possible only through hard work and dedication, she said, with a focus on exceptional care and a strong culture of safety. Dr. Valentine also chairs the Heart Center Quality and Safety Council.

“These patients are so vulnerable, and it’s important to focus on what we can control, follow evidence and best practice, and do our best to help these heart kids have the best outcome possible,” Davison said.

Kamryn Silvey just celebrated her 6-month birthday, all of that time spent at Riley, though she is now on the step-down unit of the Heart Center after recovering from multiple surgeries for heart defects, including tetralogy of Fallot.

Her mom, Holly, and grandmother, who had her all decked out in Valentine’s Day bows and hearts Monday, are hoping to bring her home in the next month or two.

“This place has been wonderful,” they said, as Kamryn made a pretty heart-shaped Valentine with her tiny feet covered in paint.

“She is a heart warrior for sure.”

Courtney Lyon is the child life specialist on the Heart Center, and she was busy this week, bopping from room to room to see who wanted to make Valentine’s Day crafts with their kiddos.

For her, the entire month of February is special because it is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Month.

“It’s about celebrating heart warriors and the strength they have. And it’s about celebrating the love our unit has and the love we share for our patients and families,” she said.

“It’s about loving who you are and what makes you unique and what makes our heart warriors unique,” Lyon continued. “That’s what makes me appreciate not just Valentine’s Day but the whole month of February. Our patients feel really special because they are. And they get a whole month to celebrate.”

So while Valentine’s Day is certainly about more than one doctor with a sweet name, this Heart Center team can’t help but celebrate him today, too.

“Dr. Valentine is a wonderful physician, mentor and leader,” Davison said. “He is kind, compassionate and honest in his interactions with his patients and families. We love having a formal day to really celebrate him.”

For the physician, however, this day – like every day – is all about the patients in his care and the goal of getting them well enough to go home as safely as possible.

“Babies develop better outside the hospital,” Dr. Valentine said. “Kids are not supposed to live in the hospital with all the bells and whistles, all the disruptions, all the strangers, all the risks for infection.”

That’s why he focuses intently on quality and safety, refining processes to improve outcomes for all patients.

“These kids are fighting for their lives.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

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Kevin M. Valentine, MD

Pediatric Critical Care Medicine