FEATURE | Posted July 16, 2014

The soccer prescription

Sac Republic FC players visit UC Davis Children’s Hospital patient

Photograph of Georgie and Sacramento Republic FC soccer team members © UC Regents
Cristian Gonzalez, left, and Rodrigo Lopez, right, walk with Georgie Paredes as he kicks a soccer ball down the hallway.

Two Sacramento Republic FC soccer players visited UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit/Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit last month. Their goal? To cheer up Yuba City resident Georgie Paredes, a 12-year-old soccer player recovering from open heart surgery.

Paredes was lying in bed, feeling a little low that he wouldn’t be able to return to soccer for six weeks, when Rodrigo Lopez and Cristian Gonzalez walked in, carrying a soccer ball and a custom Sacramento Republic jersey with Paredes’s name and favorite number on the back.

Fun reason to get out of bed

Amy Rahm, Paredes’ heart surgeon, encouraged him to walk the hall with the players. It was the motivation he needed to get out of bed.

"Once we asked him to take a walk, maybe kick the soccer ball around, his face brightened up and he immediately looked like just a normal kid, not someone who just had surgery less than 48 hours ago. You could really see the transformation almost immediately,” said Rahm.

Dr. Amy Rahm © UC Regents
Dr. Amy Rahm

Rahm operated on Paredes’s heart, which had an atrial septal defect with anomalous pulmonary veins, a congenital defect that consists of a hole between the two upper chambers of the heart (right and left atria) and abnormal connection of the pulmonary veins to the right atrium. This condition is called sinus venous ASD with partial anomalous venous return. It is repaired by redirecting the anomalous blood flow to the left atrium and closing the hole between the right and left atria.

“He now has a perfect heart,” said Rahm. “Most of our kids do really well with the surgery itself, but they become fearful of getting out of bed and hurting themselves. Any time that you can take them out of that element and give them a treat that is just their own, they let go of the surgery that’s just happened and realize, 'Oh, I can do this and it doesn’t hurt.' It helps their recovery speed along."

Video: Sacramento Republic FC players visit UC Davis Children's
Hospital patient

For Paredes, spending time with Lopez and Gonzalez, kicking the ball down the hospital corridors, was the kick start that he needed. The experience was similarly rewarding for the players, who also greeted other patients and families in the unit, offering stickers and signing autographs.

“I was excited to have the opportunity to visit Georgie,” said Lopez. “It was great to help lift his spirits. He is an inspiration to us all and I am happy to see him on the road to recovery. I wish him all the best.”

As for Paredes, he has since been discharged from UC Davis Children’s Hospital and was reunited with Sacramento Republic FC at a recent game. The team provided tickets for his whole family and invited Paredes to lead the coin toss and do some announcing over the PA system as the team’s honored guest.