LIBERTY TOWNSHIP | Camie Brown is thankful someone finally listened.
For years, the 15-year-old Chesterton High School freshman underwent sports physicals. But, during a visit this fall to a CVS MinuteClinic in Chesterton, nurse practitioner Natalie Babcock heard something no one else had: a murmur.
Active in sports since fifth grade, the Liberty Township teen had physicals before, but they were short and not very comprehensive.
"They blew it off," she said. "It's really important to not take physicals so lightly. I had no symptoms. The extra five minutes of listening to your heart really pays off."
A visit with a specialist revealed Camie had an atrial septal defect, a hole in her heart 2.6 centimeters big. And, her heart was enlarged.
Even the cardiologist was surprised and did a bedside EKG to double-check the results because Camie showed no signs of illness.
She didn't have a rapid heartbeat. She wasn't short of breath. And, she stands 5 feet, 10 inches tall — not exactly a sign of stunted growth associated with congenital heart defects.
She had spent the summer running around, playing basketball and taking a summer gym glass.
On Oct. 8, doctors at Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., used a metal device to patch the hole in her heart, but it broke loose and traveled to her lungs. The next day, she underwent emergency surgery to remove and replace the patch. On Oct. 29, she underwent open heart surgery.
For four hours, two surgeons repaired her heart, leaving behind a 4-inch vertical scar on her chest. After three days in the intensive care unit, Camie went home.
"We're very blessed that she did well," said her mother, Sophie Brown.
To give back for the blessing, the Brown family, which includes dad Tim and 13-year-old sister, Yasmin, will be at Myers Elementary School in Portage on Thursday to serve meals to the hungry.
"We have so much to be thankful for, we want to help others," Sophie Brown said.
Camie returned to school Friday, but it could take eight weeks for her sternum to heal. She hopes doctors clear her to get back on the basketball court in January. Until then, she cheers from the sidelines.
Through the ordeal, her coaches have been concerned and supportive, her mom said.
Camie said she "under-exaggerated" the severity of the surgery when telling her friends and teammates about it.
"I'm pretty sure people don't understand how severe it was," she said.
"They actually stopped her heart during surgery," her mother said.
Three weeks later, she was down to taking just one pill a day for her recovery.
When basketball season ends, Camie has other plans. She wants to compete in the high jump on the high school track team.