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Keely's Story

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image of patient Keely riding her horse

Keeping a Steady Pace

Keely Henry plans to be a veterinarian or animal caretaker when she grows up. The teen from Mount Pleasant, Texas has been around animals her entire life and feels most at home when competing at the rodeo.

“When I’m out there on my horse, I feel free,” Keely said. “There is no other feeling in the world.”

Abnormal Rhythms

Abnormal Rhythms

Five years ago, Melody Henry, Keely’s mom, thought the days of Keely pursuing her passion were over. At a youth rodeo in Lufkin, Melody watched as Keely rode into the arena and passed out in the middle of the competition. Keely had developed a serious abnormal heart rhythm called polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. To prevent her from experiencing a more serious abnormal rhythm in the future, doctors implanted an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) at Children’s Health. This device can detect the abnormal rhythm and shock her heart to a normal rhythm.

A Rough Start

A Rough Start

This was not the first time Keely experienced problems with her heart. When Keely was 4 weeks old, Melody took her to a routine checkup where the pediatrician noticed she looked pale and detected low oxygen levels. In a matter of hours, Keely was flown to Children’s Health for treatment.

“We were packed for a Labor Day trip and planned for a quick stop at the doctor before leaving town,” Melody said. “The next thing I knew Keely was being loaded onto the plane headed to Dallas. I was in shock.”

At Children’s Health, doctors discovered that Keely was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries and a ventricular septal defect (VSD). Within hours of her arrival, Keely underwent a balloon atrial septostomy using a catheter placed in her leg vein and maneuvered into her heart. It ultimately gave more oxygenated blood to her brain and body. 

Mending Keely’s Heart

Mending Keely’s Heart

Five days later, Dr. Thomas Zellers, interventional pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Health, performed open heart surgery to allow the deoxygenated blood to come to the right ventricle and to be pumped to the lungs to pick up oxygen and the oxygenated blood to be pumped to the body. He also closed the VSD to prevent blood from being pumped across the hole and adding too much blood to the lungs.

“Keely developed heart block, a condition in which the electrical impulses could not be transmitted from the upper to the lower chambers to keep her heart rate normal,” Dr. Zellers said. “At that time, she required a pacemaker to regulate her heart rate.”

Melody remembers the overwhelming feeling of being a new parent on top of Keely’s heart problems and credits the staff at Children’s Health with helping her through a challenging time.

“We hardly knew about having a child, much less one with heart problems,” Melody said. “But the caregivers at Children’s have such a wonderful bedside manner and made me feel at ease even though it was a stressful situation.”

Back in Action

Back in Action

With a mended heart, Keely thrived as an infant and grew to love the rodeo just like her parents.

“My husband and I attended college on rodeo scholarships, so it’s a family affair,” Melody said.

After passing out at the rodeo, Keely’s involvement came to a quick halt, and she began showing lambs instead. But her love for training, riding and competing stayed strong. 

“I’ll never forget at our appointment two years ago when Dr. Zellers asked Keely if she wanted to compete again,” Melody said. “I was nervous to let her dive back into it, but she was ready and hasn’t looked back.”

Today the eighth grader spends 45 minutes each day training a 6-month-old filly named Harley and rides Coyote, her competing horse, regularly. She is fourth in the region in the Youth Rodeo Association.

Keely prefers to steer clear of doctor’s offices, but Melody says she does not mind visiting Children’s Health.

“It feels like a second home to me,” Keely said.

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