Lauren Peake Murphy says her son, Vaughn Ritzen, rarely slows down. The 8-year-old is the first one in their house to wake up each morning and loves Nerf gun wars, climbing trees and being active.
When Vaughn was born, his pediatrician detected a heart murmur. Lauren and her family are no strangers to cardiac conditions. Lauren herself has a heart murmur, and her father has mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the two flaps of the mitral valve do not close evenly but instead bulge. Further, Lauren’s nephew passed away at 18 months of age from unexplained causes. Through the pain of that family tragedy, combined with what she knew about her family medical history, Lauren said it was important to know everything she could about her children medically.
She sought care for Vaughn’s newly detected murmur at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. At 2 months old, he was diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis, a
condition where the pulmonary artery—the artery that carries the blood from the right ventricle to the lungs to become oxygenated—is too narrow, compromising blood flow.
As a patient of Vanderbilt’s pediatric cardiology program, Vaughn was seen frequently to monitor his condition.
Today, although Vaughn sometimes gets winded and will never outgrow his condition, pulmonary stenosis hasn’t stopped him from living a typical childhood. He will have routine cardiology visits throughout his life.
“We are so thankful for the care Vanderbilt provided our son and are grateful for our positive outcome with Vaughn, but we know that this isn’t the case for everyone,” Lauren said. “We want other people to be able to benefit from the care Vanderbilt provides.”
The Franklin, Tennessee, family has chosen to express their gratitude to the pediatric cardiology program at Children’s Hospital by supporting the Thomas P. Graham Jr.
Fellowship program, which provides superior training to early-career pediatric cardiologists.
The fellowship is named for emeritus faculty member Thomas P. Graham Jr., M.D., who joined Children’s Hospital in 1971 to start its first pediatric cardiology program, served as chief of the division until 2004 and treated patients until his retirement in 2007.
The three-year pediatric cardiology fellowship program challenges trainees through intensive clinical experience and opportunities for investigative work in a number of clinical and basic research fields.
The cost of Pediatric Cardiology fellowship training is primarily incurred by the Division of Cardiology, which can present a financial challenge, said Scott Baldwin, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology and co-director of the Pediatric Heart Institute.
“Funds like those provided by Lauren Murphy go a long way toward ensuring that we can attract the best and brightest individuals and provide the highest level of training and mentorship,” said Baldwin, the Katrina Overall McDonald Professor of Pediatrics. “We have become very good at ‘repairing’ most heart defects early in life, such that many individuals born with congenital heart disease are living well into adulthood. Caring for these patients requires developing expertise in both pediatric and adult cardiology. Thus, now more than ever, we need support for such individuals who are willing to dedicate so much time to developing the skills to deal with a growing population of patients with unique health care needs.”
Through the support of this fellowship, Lauren is not only playing a role in cultivating the next generation of cardiologists, but she is cultivating the next generation of philanthropists by instilling altruism in her children. In addition to Vaughn, Lauren has another son, Wesley, age 10, and two stepdaughters, Katie and Michaela, with her husband, Michael.
“Vaughn knows his heart is special, and he knows that the choice to give money to Vanderbilt will hopefully help others,” Lauren said. “We want our children to use money in an influential way. By providing for Children’s Hospital, if we are able to help the hospital or if someone is able to benefit from what we give, then it makes it all worth it.”
– by Jennifer Wetzel