Her heart is back at Riley on the transplant team




Social worker Laura Weiger worked for years in the Cancer Center. Now she has returned to support heart transplant patients.

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

There was a time when Laura Weiger thought she wanted to be a doctor. Turns out, what she loved was working in a medical setting, helping patients and families navigate the twists and turns of treatment.

Weiger is relatively new to the heart transplant team at Riley Children’s Health. She started in March as the social worker for cardiac transplant patients.

But she’s not new to Riley.

Weiger worked as the social worker in the Cancer Center at Riley for eight years back in the early 2000s. After leaving Riley, she worked with smaller nonprofits and for Indiana Donor Network. Working with transplant patients today brings things full circle from her days at Indiana Donor Network.

What brought her back?

“Honestly, I think I was ready to get back into the interdisciplinary work within the hospital system,” she said. “This team and department actually match very well with how I practiced in the Cancer Center.”

The length of time spent following patients is longer, giving her the opportunity to get to know them as individuals and as a family unit.

She also enjoys building relationships with the transplant team.

“This is a very close team,” she said. “You don’t have a straight and narrow lane, but you do have your role, and there’s some crossover and working together that I really enjoy.”

When she put aside her plan to become a physician, Weiger, who has two daughters with her husband, Steve, realized she could make a difference through social work in a healthcare setting.

“Just understanding what it was about the medical field that interested me put me on a path to medical social work,” she explained. “I love interfacing with people, I love conversation, I love trying to understand how to click with them and how to get them to trust me so I can help them.”

As she settles into her new role, Weiger said her biggest challenge is gaining a better understanding of the heart itself.

“I’m still very much in a learning phase. I want to understand more; that’s my personality, but I’ll get there.”

Her major frustration, she said, likely mirrors that of her patients – the waiting, the not knowing.

In the midst of that, she continues to be proactive, connecting families with resources and helping them navigate challenges – whether it’s working with insurance, schools or caregivers or dealing with a financial crisis.

“My role is to help them work through barriers and navigate next steps, as well as maintain overall quality of life,” she said. “We want patients to be successful outside of getting a heart, ensuring they have the services that are important for them to succeed.”

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