In early August, when the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines were hunkering down in their respective training camps, one young Ohio State fan bravely dared to venture into enemy territory.
Ivan Applin, 10, crossed from Ohio into Michigan on Aug. 3 to visit that school up north for a procedure to close a hole in his heart. University of Michigan doctors inserted a small, wire-framed device to plug the holes caused by an atrial septal defect. Before they began, Ivan had one chief concern.
“You’re not going to change my heart to make me love Michigan, are you?” he asked the doctors.
Ivan is from Toledo, Ohio, close to the halfway point between the two rival campuses. His parents and their six children are all ardent Ohio State fans. Ivan and one of his sisters, Yana, were born in Arkhangelsk, Russia – a city of 300,000 in the northwest part of the country. The Applins adopted both of them after their orphanage visited Ohio on a church-sponsored trip to the United States in 2010.
“He’s been here almost five years. So as soon as he started learning English, we were teaching him to say, ‘Go Bucks,’” said Jennifer Applin, Ivan’s mother.
Jennifer Applin, who had a brain injury treated at the University of Michigan hospital a few years ago, helped convince her son that if she could make it out of Wolverine country without her allegiances being changed, so could he. When Ivan saw the wire-framed device was white – not maize and blue – he decided it was safe to continue. After inspecting the device, doctors inserted it in his heart through a catheter.
Doctors quizzed him on the top players and coaches in the country after finishing the procedure, and despite their best efforts, they couldn’t coax him to heap any praise on new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
“We tried to put in some subliminal messages to make him think about some other schools,” said Dr. Ronald Grifka. “I will say, after this procedure I’m going to look into it and see if we can get [the device] with some block M’s emblazoned on them.”
Ivan was happy to report that the Michigan hospital staff treated him well despite the fact that he proudly sported his Buckeyes gear in Ann Arbor. He’s back in Toledo now and will be able to resume playing soccer and participating in his fourth-grade gym glass next week.
Jennifer Applin said Ivan has been enjoying his brush with fame as his story spreads this week. He is hoping that the attention might help him reunite with his two younger sisters. He lost touch with the girls when they were adopted by another family somewhere in the U.S., a year before he came to Ohio.