Life is back on track for Vaughn

WINTERSVILLE – An Indian Creek High School student is back on track after recovering from open heart surgery.

Eli Vaughan, 16, a junior and member of the track team, was running cross country last year when he complained of chest pains. Doctors initially believed the problem to be a pulled muscle, but a cardiologist’s examination discovered something much more serious.

He is the son of Debbie and Jason Vaughan of Wintersville. According to Debbie, he suffered a left coronary anomaly when it was found that his coronary artery was being pinned by his pulmonary artery.

“It’s common for athletes to find it. They usually find it because they pass out on the football or basketball court,” she said, noting that the deformity began when Eli was at a young age and grew over time.

The doctors recognized the situation was serious

“They told us immediately he could not do any physical activity at all,” said Debbie. “Any physical activity could cause him to just collapse. It could kill him.”

Surgery took place Aug. 30 of last year.

They had to go in and do a coronary unroofing,” Debbie said. “They made a space around the artery.”

She noted that for an athlete like Eli, enforced inactivity was a difficult adjustment. Seven days after surgery he began light jogging but after a doctor’s appointment found fluid around his heart, he was told to stop.

“He was running miles and miles a day and it was hard for him not to,” Debbie said. “He had to take extra medicine and water pills to dissipate the fluid around his heart. It was late November before he was released completely and could go back to physical activity.”

She added that Eli did well during his recovery.

“The pain in your chest is unbelievable and nothing can touch it. If you breath hard, your chest moves and it hurts,” she said.

“He dealt with it much better than I did. He was a trooper through the whole thing. He really worked hard to get back and has run when it hurt. He’s a tough kid,” she said, adding that the support of his teammates was welcome, along with community and church groups. “The cross country team was great through the whole thing. He went to every meet but the one the day after his surgery.”

About a year after surgery, Eli is back on active duty.

“He’s doing really good. His time actually improved from before the surgery because he was obstructed and didn’t know it.”

DeFrank can be reached at