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Dick Harmon: Gratitude comes in the form of a healthy heart for a 10-year-old girl

Published: Monday, Jan. 14 2013 12:45 p.m. MST

Former BYU football star Reno Mahe learned great humility through the health scare of his daughter Evie, now age 10.

family photo

LEHI — Reno Mahe's 10-year-old daughter Evie looks like a heart stealer. She's a princess with big, dark eyes, beautiful soft hair, delicate hands and the gorgeous smile of her mother. She's a daughter any father would protect and defend at all costs.

He's always known it, but Reno was solidly reminded just how precious Evie is last Monday when he kissed her before she underwent surgery at Primary Children's Medical Center.

Men? Well, we think we're invincible. Certainly we are not when one realizes so much of what we think we know is really in the hands of others.

This story began a month and a half ago when Reno got a call from his wife Sunny while playing in a church basketball game.

"You have to come home now," Sunny said.

"Why, what's going on?" said Reno.

"Come home right now, hurry," she pleaded.

Little Evie's heart was racing, beating twice what is normal, and it wouldn't subside.

Reno and Sunny decided to take her to a local Intermountain Healthcare Instacare facility near their home in Lehi.

Reno Mahe is accustomed to the limelight. He's a cool guy because he's got a thousand-watt smile, he laughs easy and makes friends as fast as you open the door. He's a Tongan Paul Newman in the looks department, and his athletic talents have taken him from stardom at Brighton High to BYU and then to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He's topped the limit of 5,000 friends on Facebook and had to open another profile to accommodate requests to be friends. He's been the toast of Philadelphia Eagle and BYU fans and he's a walking photo-op at Polynesian gatherings from church dinners, wedding luaus, football camps and company parties.

All those traits haven't kept him from challenges. He may have extremely quick feet and moves on the football field, but he's been tackled in real life. Almost two years ago, he was charged with taking gasoline at a private business pump without paying.

He thought a friend had permission to give him extra reserves but he was wrong. Because of his fame, the case became high profile in the blink of an eye. Mahe handled it like a man, but it embarrassed him to the core.

He and his wife Sunny are expecting their sixth child.

At the Instacare, nurses hooked little Evie to an EKG machine, did other tests and observed that her heart kept up the rapid pace. They called for an ambulance to take her to a hospital. After arriving at the emergency room, more tests and wires were hooked up to the girl. As nurses talked among themselves, a doctor working at a computer overheard the conversation and advised they stand Evie upside down, a handstand. With wires all over her held by nurses, they flipped Evie upside down. Almost instantly, her heart returned to its normal pace and it has remained so to this day.

Since the incident, a cardiologist told the Mahes that Evie had an extra pathway through her heart and it can throw off electrical impulses that control the muscle and how blood flows. They had three choices — they could do nothing and she could deal with it; she could take medicine for the rest of her life, or they could go through an artery in her groin to the heart and close the pathway.

Of course, they wanted Evie whole as possible and chose the delicate procedure.

Humbled, feeling helpless and at the mercy of others, Reno worried about costs. Of course he'd pay anything he could but he wondered if his insurance covered the operation. He checked it out. His insurance would pay every penny.

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