Dream team gives young patient a second chance

Patient Stories |



Pulmonary hypertension was ready to steal this boy’s last breath, but Lane Veach is thriving today.

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

When Lane Veach said he wanted to be part of a team, he wasn’t thinking about the team at Riley Hospital for Children that has kept him alive for years.

Make no mistake, he is grateful to that team of doctors, nurses and specialists because they helped him get to this day.

He recently joined the diving team at his Bloomington middle school – something that wouldn’t have been possible without the care he has received for pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Michael Johansen, a cardiologist and co-director of Riley’s Multidisciplinary Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program, works with pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Gregory Montgomery and nurse Tisha Kivett to make sure 14-year-old Lane and other kids like him get the comprehensive care they need.

Pulmonary hypertension happens when the pressure in the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs is too high, damaging the lungs.

“He couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs,” Alan Veach said of his son during a visit to Riley last week. “He used to have to ride in a wagon here because he couldn’t walk from the car. He would vomit after eating because his heart was so enlarged and under stress.”

Lane’s birth mother died from the same disease shortly after he was born, but Lane was not diagnosed until he was 4. He was transferred emergently from Bloomington to Riley a decade ago when he began struggling to breathe.

Dr. Anne Farrell was the cardiologist on call that January day in 2013, and she became a lifeline of sorts for Alan and wife Jennifer.

“She was our rock here for quite some time,” Veach said.

There was no pulmonary hypertension clinic at Riley at the time, but Drs. Montgomery and Johansen collaborated to bring pulmonology and cardiology together to treat Lane and others.

By early 2014, Lane’s health was deteriorating rapidly. He had to tote an oxygen tank with him at all times in a little suitcase on wheels – to preschool, the store, even to the beach.

Riley collaborated with doctors at other hospitals, first evaluating the then-5-year-old for a heart/lung transplant, before the decision was made to have him undergo a Potts shunt, a novel procedure that had been studied in Denmark and performed only a couple of times at a St. Louis hospital.

The operation involves a side-to-side connection from the left pulmonary artery to the descending aorta, diverting some of the high-pressure pulmonary blood so it would not have to move through damaged lungs.

That surgery in St. Louis in 2014 saved Lane’s life, his dad says.

Since then, he’s been able to do away with the portable oxygen, as well as a continuous pump that delivered drug therapy intravenously. He now takes three oral medications multiple times a day, in addition to an aspirin, which allows him to be more active.

The eighth-grader returns to Riley every six months for blood tests and an echocardiogram to test his heart function, but otherwise, he lives a fairly normal life – going to school, hanging out with friends and playing video games.

He might not be able to swim the length of the pool at school, but he can participate on the dive team, and that’s enough for right now.

For his 14th birthday, he brought in party hats to celebrate with his dream team at Riley – Dr. Johansen, Dr. Montgomery, Dr. Farrell and nurse Kivett.

They have seen him through the worst but always seem to bring out his best. They are like family, both father and son say.

“Thanks for always being willing to talk with us, to laugh with us. Thanks for always being there when we needed you,” Veach said.

“Thanks for giving me a second chance,” added Lane, who supports Riley by speaking at Bloomington South’s Riley Dance Marathon.

It’s something that Lane’s dad feels strongly about – raising awareness of pulmonary hypertension and advocating for more research and more funding to improve access to care for everyone.

“There are never enough ways to say thanks to our team,” he said. “Any time I can shine a light on their program so they can get more funding, more recognition, so that more people have an opportunity to understand how special they are, I will always say yes to that.”

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

Related Doctor

Michael W. Johansen, DO

Michael W. Johansen, DO

Pediatric Cardiology

Anne G. Farrell, MD

Anne G. Farrell, MD

Pediatric Cardiology

Gregory S. Montgomery, MD

Gregory S. Montgomery, MD

Pediatric Pulmonary