Fixing a Tiny Broken Heart
Paul Neshewat is the epitome of a thriving, fifteen-month-old boy. When he’s not chasing after Hamlet, his family’s English bulldog, Paul can be found dancing on his tippy-toes and demolishing anything in his path. On the surface, no one would know that this handsome, giggling little boy was born with one of the more complex forms of congenital heart disease.
Prior to Paul’s birth, Dallas and Jimmy Neshewat discovered during a routine anatomy scan that their son would be born with a congenital heart defect. Dallas and Jimmy prepared for Paul’s arrival and the journey he would have before him.
On April 30, 2015, Dallas and Jimmy welcomed Paul to the world in Jacksonville, Florida.
Paul’s condition, double outlet right ventricle with subaortic ventricular septal defect, is known as one of the most complex defects for patients with congenital heart disease. This rare condition involves an obstruction of normal blood flow to the lungs because of a hole in the lower chamber of the heart. In addition, Paul was also born with pulmonary valve atresia, a type of congenital heart defect where the pulmonary valve, the opening that facilitates in sending blood flow to the lungs, does not function properly.
Shortly after Paul’s birth, Mark Bleiweis, M.D., the center director and chief of congenital cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Florida Health Congenital Heart Center, caught wind of the Neshewat’s story and their son’s condition.
“We were so impressed that Dr. Bleiweis would call us at 6 o’clock that night, and took the time to reach out to us about Paul,” Dallas said. Less than two months after Paul’s birth, he was transported by ambulance to the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, where he underwent his first surgery.
As a result of his first surgery, Paul received a shunt and recovered in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, or PCICU, until July 13, 2015. Following his time in the PCICU, the Neshewats attended follow-up cardiac appointments with Himesh Vyas, M.D., a pediatric interventional cardiologist at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.
In November of 2015, Paul was readmitted to the PCICU for a full repair, and was discharged from the hospital one week later.
“My husband and I were looking through photos of Paul after his second surgery, and you can see a spark in his eye. That’s when he really began to flourish,” Dallas said.
Although Paul will need additional medical procedures as his body continues to grow, these repairs may be performed in a catheterization lab, a less invasive alternative than open-heart surgery.
Because of his surgeries, Paul will be able to go to school and play with his friends, and no one may even be able to tell that he had a congential heart condition, Vyas said.