She’s come a long way, baby

Patient Stories |


Caroline Durcholz

Pediatric critical care walk reunites families with care team members. This year’s event is June 22.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer,

Eight-year-old Caroline Durcholz loves nothing better than riding the Howler roller coaster at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a family amusement park that sits practically in her backyard in southern Indiana.

“It is her favorite place in the whole world,” said mom Tracy Durcholz.

Caroline Durcholz

And it’s a world away from the CVICU at Riley Hospital for Children, where Caroline spent the better part of a year before her first birthday.

Born with congenital heart disease, including tetralogy of Fallot and ventricular septal defects, Caroline underwent multiple heart surgeries and procedures and had a stint on ECMO as a baby. In all, she has had at least 20 hospital admissions at Riley.

Caroline Durcholz

Dr. Mark Rodefeld was her surgeon, and Dr. Jyoti Patel is her cardiologist.

Today, the younger of Mark and Tracy Durcholz’ two daughters is wrapping up second grade and looking forward to a summer of fun with friends and family.

That means more trips to Holiday World, the library and the roller-skating rink, as well as devoting time to 4-H projects and practicing piano.

On June 22, she will join her sister, parents and grandparents for the ninth annual Riley Pediatric Critical Care Walk-a-Thon, a fundraiser for Riley Children’s Foundation to support critical care initiatives and research at the hospital.

Caroline Durcholz

The event is part celebration, part reunion and part memorial – a chance for patients and families to come together outside the hospital to see doctors, nurses, therapists and other team members who’ve had a hand in their care. It’s also an opportunity to remember and honor patients who passed away in the previous year.

“Caroline was so little then, so she doesn’t remember that time, but I talk to her about it. We as parents remember what happened. We know what she went through,” Tracy Durcholz said.

That’s why the family has made the trip to Indianapolis for the walk several times in the past seven years.

“Last year, we saw Dr. (Mouhammed) Yabrodi, and he remembered her. We saw a couple nurses who were really close to us.”

Caroline, who returns to Riley four times a year to follow up with cardiology and pulmonology, is doing exceptionally well today, despite her rough start, her mom said.

She recently “graduated” from the pulmonary hypertension team and no longer requires supplementary oxygen at night. She continues speech therapy and has made big gains in her daily feeds, taking 75% of her food by mouth.

Next month’s event includes a 5K walk, games, face-painting and treats. Emergency response vehicles will also be onsite for kids to explore.

Register for the event or set up a fundraising page here.

Related Doctor

Jyoti K. Patel, MD

Jyoti K. Patel, MD

Pediatric Cardiology

related doctor headshot photo

Mark D. Rodefeld, MD

Thoracic Surgery

Mouhammad Yabrodi, MD

Mouhammad Yabrodi, MD

Pediatric Cardiology