Generations of Caring: Ryker and Jessica's Story

In 1989, Jessica Neal was in utero when Nurse Joyce performed a fetal echo – a test that is used to screen and diagnose heart conditions. The results of this test allowed cardiologist Dr. James Prochazka to diagnose Jessica with rhabdomyoma – a benign tumor on the left side of her heart. Later that same year, Jessica had surgery to remove the tumor that was larger than her walnut-size heart and she made a full recovery.

Today, Jessica is 31 and experienced another fetal echo early last year… but this time it for her unborn son that was in utero – Baby Ryker. The fetal echo found that Baby Ryker had tetralogy of fallot – a small hole in his heart that would require surgery.

Thirty years to the month from when Jessica had her operation, Ryker’s heart was repaired and he is now growing into a happy and healthy little boy. Jessica shared her story with Ryker’s cardiologist, Dr. John Caton, and during Baby Ryker’s hospital stay she had the chance to reconnect with Nurse Joyce – now a physician’s assistant - who had performed her echo 30 years ago, and Dr. Prochazka, Jessica’s cardiologist who is also still a very special member of our network. 

“Those who were caring for Ryker made me feel like they really loved my child … we could’ve gone anywhere for treatment, but after meeting with Dr. Caton, I was assured that this is where we are supposed to be,” says Jessica. “My parents also expressed how happy they were with my care and I knew that it would be that same, if not even better for Ryker. The fact that clinicians like Dr. Prochazka and Joyce are still around so many years later, shows me that they really love what they do.”

Photo of pediatric cardiologist Dr. John Caton, Jessica, Baby Ryker, and pediatric cardiologist Dr. James Prochazka

Dr. John Caton, Jessica, Baby Ryker, and Dr. James Prochazka

Pediatric Cardiology Expertise at the Willson Heart Center

The Willson Heart Center at Valley Children's provides the highest level of pediatric cardiac care in Central California, giving families access to advanced technology and cutting-edge treatments without having to travel far from home. Learn how Valley Children's delivers the highest quality pediatric heart care, all in a family-centered environment >>