Lauren Cheney honors Riley champions

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Parents with children in sports are known to dream big maybe a scholarship or a role in the Olympics. But a west side family just wanted their daughter to have a shot at an ordinary life.

The highs in Lauren Cheney's life are extraordinary, from winning a women's soccer team goal in Beijing to the summer games in London when Team USA won the gold again.

Now Lauren is sporting a new sparkler. She got engaged right after the Olympics and is planning a wedding for next July.

It's a lot to celebrate, and so distant from the mood many years ago when she was four years old and her parents learned Lauren had a heart defect.

"I remember that as a real trying time for us as a family. We didn't want to believe that she would have to have open heart surgery," said her father George Cheney.

Twenty-one years ago, Riley cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. John Brown conducted the surgery.

"Took her to the operating room, put her on the heart-lung machine, opened the right upper chamber and saw this large, quarter-sized hole between the upper chambers and was able to position the patch inside her heart so that those abnormally draining lung veins would go to the red side of the heart," he said.

"Before the surgery she would run with the kids and then all of a sudden you would see Lauren sitting down with the other kids running and you know, she was tired and you could see it in her. After the surgery it was like a total turnaround," said George Cheney.

Lauren came to the Riley Foundation Annual Luncheon to share thanks and the message that a diagnosis does not define the individual, but rather it's an obstacle to overcome. Her mother tries not to think of the what-ifs.

"I think we have so so gotten use to the fact that you don't really think about it anymore. But to just think that she could have been stopped that she could have maybe not gotten to this and had the potential all along," said Rita Cheney, Lauren's mother.

"I am 25 and I have lived an extraordinary life so far and I think it's all possible because of my family, obviously, but these doctors...saved my life and they are doing it for children every day and I just don't think that should go unrecognized," said Lauren.

2013 Riley Champions Presented by Kroger

Breana Allen, 17, Indianapolis (sickle cell disease)

Cole Barnett, 14, Newburgh (type 1 diabetes)

Anissa Bredemeyer, 14, Roanoke (Crohn's disease and arthritis)

Hannah Jacobs, 17, Plymouth (spina bifida)

Jonathan Nugent, 15, Valparaiso (brain cancer)

Alex Rice, 17, Bloomington (neurology)

Carmen Schleppy, 9, Brazil (burn unit)

Megan Whitaker, 14, New Market (heart and spine surgery)