“We almost lost everything – our house, our phones, our insurance, our cars – and we had kids back home that I had to support,” Mr. Soto said. He responded to the challenge by doubling down on the old-fashioned values of hard work and putting family first.
“I had to find a job [in Dallas], and I ended up getting two jobs at the beginning to keep everything running at home,” he said. One of the jobs was at a grocery store; another was at Home Depot. He said Home Depot was a good fit because the hours and benefits were good, and it was just 2 miles from the hospital.
It was a good fit for him – and he was a good worker for them. He worked so hard they increased his hours, made him full-time and even transferred him to a Home Depot in Lubbock when the family was able to return home.
Mr. Soto’s hard work saved the family home, and Children’s Health’s medical expertise saved his daughter’s life.
Elianna was born with two severe heart defects: Ebstein’s anomaly of the tricuspid valve and transposition of the great arteries. Ebstein's anomaly of the tricuspid valve, a rare heart defect, is a malfunction of the valve between the two chambers on the right side of the heart. Blood leaks back through the valve and may cause heart enlargement or failure. Transposition of the great arteries is an improper connection of the large vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. It dangerously reduces the amount of oxygen provided to the body.
This is what baby Elianna was up against, but the medical staff at Children’s Health Heart Center was hard at work on these challenges. In just the first year of Elianna’s life, they performed three open heart surgeries and more than two dozen heart procedures, including pinning down her diaphragm, cauterizations and blood transfusions.
Doctors performed her first surgery when she was just 13 days old. It was a seven and a half hour operation to repair the transposition of the great arteries. Five days later doctors performed a second surgery to repair a hole in her heart.
Her medical condition was very delicate. She had a stroke at 3 months old and a massive seizure that almost took her life at 6 months old. She was in the intensive care unit for four months.
“In the beginning, it was scary. Now it’s OK. I know where to go,” Elianna’s mother, Letticia Soto, said. “I wouldn’t have any other hospital take care of child.”
When her insurance company later tried to switch Elianna to another hospital, Mrs. Soto fought a paperwork battle to keep her at Children’s Health. Elianna was improving, and her mother wanted to stick with the hospital that got her through the most difficult times.
Elianna has a pacemaker, and she returns to Children’s Health periodically for doctors to check it and see when a surgery will be necessary to replace the battery. Now 3 years old, she is developmentally delayed, but definitely progressing, Mrs. Soto said sitting next to her husband.
“She says, ‘Daddy.’ She doesn’t say, ‘Momma,’” she said with a smile. “She said, ‘Daddy,’ yesterday.”
Mr. Soto said he saw his daughter make great progress.
“Now she’s just a whole different baby. She’s more active. She’s able to take spoons. She babbles now. She’s got her own little characteristics,” he said. “I’d do it again for her. She’s a miracle.”
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