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Posted February 20, 2014
A Boy “Who Loves to Run and Play” Thanks To the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Surgery Program


Julian Soto (right)
Julian Soto (right) with brother, Giovanni

Julian Soto is an energetic, thriving 8-year-old from Pasco County who loves swimming and martial arts classes. He also is one more example of the top-tier work performed - day in, day out - by the Johns Hopkins All Children's heart surgery program.

You would never guess the substantial hurdles he had to overcome as a newborn given a chance at life by ACH's skilled physicians and caring nurses, who rushed into action when he was only a day old. Baby Julian had been diagnosed with a complex heart condition when his mother, Belsy, went for her first ultrasound in Palm Harbor. She was promptly referred to maternal fetal medicine specialist Jose Prieto, M.D., and a second ultrasound revealed that Julian's heart hadn't developed correctly.

Belsy and husband Fernando were then referred to All Children's, where it was discovered that the baby she was carrying had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare defect in which the left ventricle is seriously underdeveloped. Still, Belsy was told that her baby appeared to be a good candidate for a series of surgeries that would make his tiny heart function properly in time.

Typically, it takes about 10 days for the first of three operations to be performed, but Julian required immediate surgery after being born by C-section. "I was lying in bed, because I couldn't get up and just praying that he would be okay," she says. "I wasn't able to hold him or touch him. All I could do was give him a little kiss."

Fortunately, Julian was in excellent, caring hands in ACH's Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. Minutes before surgery, Belsy arrived by wheelchair to see her son, if only briefly. Then came an agonizing, day-long wait as pediatric heart surgeon Jeffrey Jacobs, M.D. performed the operation. But when it was over, Julian had pulled through. "When I saw him the next day, he was in his incubator and surrounded by all these machines and tubes, and I couldn't talk to him or touch him," she says. "I had to walk back out because I couldn't stop crying."

But the tears of concern would gradually become tears of joy. Julian slowly began recovering and came through two subsequent surgeries with flying colors: one at six months and the other at age 3. With the help of therapy at All Children's Outpatient Care, Pasco, Julian has grown into an active second-grader  – and a great older brother to 5-year-old Giovanni – under the regular care today of All Children's pediatric cardiologist Gul Dadlani, M.D.

"He's doing wonderfully," Belsy says. "If you saw him, you'd never think he had a heart issue. He does get tired a little quicker than other children, but he loves to run and play and has been perfect since he brought him home. That's why I love All Children's – I love all the nurses and the doctors. The care we've received has been unbelievable."

Her busy little boy is living proof.