Jacob Love was barely a week old when his pediatrician detected a mild heart murmur and an unusual weight gain. During a subsequent visit a few days later, the pediatrician noted that Jacob had gained 1 pound in a week —an even more concerning development — so she sent him to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for evaluation and testing.
At Hopkins Children’s, Jacob underwent a few basic heart tests plus an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart. Within 30 minutes of the ultrasound, pediatric cardiologist Reid Thompson informed Jacob’s parents that their son had multiple heart defects including a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the two ventricles), mild regurgitation of the tricuspid valve, mitral valve stenosis, aortic arch hypoplasia and, the most serious, coarctation of the aorta. Coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta, can take a severe toll on the heart and lead to serious problems if not fixed early on.
WATCH A Tribute from the Heart, the Loves' video thank-you note to the cardiology team at Hopkins Children's
Jacob needed surgery and needed it fast. As cardiologists and surgeons drafted a strategy for his procedure, Jacob was taken to the pediatric emergency room and then to the pediatric intensive-care unit (PICU) where he was given intravenous medications to temporarily relieve the fluid build-up and pressure on his lungs caused by the narrowed aorta and his overworked heart. Shortly before surgery, Jacob was baptized in the PICU. Then he was wheeled into the operating room where his parents gave him a kiss goodbye and headed to the waiting area, where they were surrounded by family and friends.
Luckily, Jake wouldn't need an open-heart surgery. The pediatric cardiology team was able to perform a minimally invasive procedure, accessing Jake's heart through his left side. The surgery was a great success and Jacob was wheeled back into the PICU where he started recuperating quickly. Jacob’s cardiac surgeon Luca Vricella and his cardiologist, Reid Thompson, patiently explained what had been done and the road that lies ahead. In the immediate aftermath of the surgery, the Loves were hopeful, scared and uncertain at the same time.
“It was a sleepless whirlwind of emotion coupled with uncertainty and the burning desire to trust what was being said,” said Jacob’s father, Patrick. “The patience, scholarship and willingness to teach that we encountered at Hopkins Children’s really helped us in this desire to trust, and were not let down.”
Jacob's recovery has gone well. He only comes to Hopkins Children’s for routine appointments with Dr. Thompson. The cardiology team's strategy was to immediately fix the most serious problem, while allowing the child’s body to repair the other problems naturally. Indeed, Jacob’s ventricular septal defect closed spontaneously — which is not that uncommon —and the other problems are being managed conservatively with medication.
“We are grateful to Dr. Thompson, Dr. Vricella and all the other many doctors and nurses whose care helped ensure that Jacob will continue to live, thrive and grace our lives with his beautiful heart,” said his mom, Jessica.