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Heart of a hero: Senior chief's son undergoes transplant weeks after pinning his dad

Jul. 17, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
From left, Adam, Jill, Ian, Ryan and Evan Podsiad pose during the senior chief's advancement ceremony June 29 at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
From left, Adam, Jill, Ian, Ryan and Evan Podsiad pose during the senior chief's advancement ceremony June 29 at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. (Courtesy of ENCS (SW) Ryan Podsiad)
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Sailor's Hospitalized Son Gets to See Promotion Ce...: SThe promotion ceremony for a Senior Chief Petty Officer was moved to his son's hospital room so the whole family could be part of it.ceremony.

Visit the family’s website

This is a donation site for the Podsiad family, to help cover expenses related to Evan’s care:

On June 29, Senior Chief Engineman (SW) Ryan Podsiad received his E-8 anchors from his 13-year-old son, Evan, at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. On July 9, Evan received a new heart.

A pinning ceremony after making senior chief should be a defining moment in a sailor’s life, especially if it comes surrounded by family. Reached by phone hours after the surgery, Ryan Podsiad is just focused on his son’s recovery.

Evan, who has been in the hospital since May 15 after being diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy, was in stable condition as of July 11, Podsiad said.

The family and hospital staff are monitoring how Evan’s body reacts to the transplant. The possibility of rejection remains, but they are hopeful, Ryan Podsiad said.

“We didn’t even know if he was going to make it to transplant time,” he said.

Now they hope they can spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at home.

Podsiad, stationed at Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, was on the E-8 list that came out June 24, but he said he was hardly conscious of it — staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the L.A. hospital, commuting 100 miles to work. His wife, Jill, commutes 300 to work in a hospital near their home in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

When the advancement ceremony announcement came, though, he knew he wouldn’t want to attend without his family.

“It made me pretty sad, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go to the ceremony,” he said.

His command brought the ceremony to his family instead. Members of Podsiad’s command and some of his colleagues traveled to Los Angeles on June 29, and Evan was able to pin the senior chief rank on Podsiad at the hospital.

“He was really excited about the promotion,” Podsiad said.

The ordeal has at times made him question his choices, he said. In his time in the Navy, he has missed fishing trips, hunting trips and soccer games with his three sons — Evan, 17-year-old Adam and 12-year-old Ian. “There are so many precious moments that you don’t even get to be a part of.”

But he said his family is also the reason he serves in the Navy.

“We do it for our family at the same time, so they can sleep safe in their bed at night,” Podsiad said.

While about one in 5,000 people can have some form of arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy, Evan’s case — in which heart tissue slowly stops functioning — is exceedingly rare. Rarer still is the chance to treat it: It’s the second-leading cause of “sudden cardiac death in young people,” according to an American Academy of Family Physicians report.

Podsiad, who just came off five years of sea duty, said he has saved enough leave so he and his wife can work out their commuting schedules, and one of them can always be with Evan at the hospital throughout his long recovery.

Update: Evan Podsiad’s hometown newspaper in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., posted a photo of Evan after the surgery.

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