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Infant receives heart-saving device

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Pacemakers are a life saving device and they're not just for adults. Heart health has a new meaning this February for a Central Texas family and their five month old daughter.

Looking at Sophia you would never know what all this little girl has been through in the last month.

Erin Fernandez had no reason to think anything was wrong with her daughter Sophia when she took her in for her four month check up on January 4th.

Sophia was growing and eating and smiling like an infant should. The routine doctor's visit seemed fine until he listened to her heart.

"It was just too slow," explained Fernandez. "It was hard to hear and I didn't know what it all meant."

The Fernandez' pediatrician reached out to Dr. Byron Holt, a pediatric cardiologist at Dell Children's Medical Center.

"When I met her the first time her heart rate was 55 and most babies her age would have been between 120 and 130 so it was half of what we wanted," he explained.

Dr. Holt admitted Sophia for watch and follow her heart rate for 24 hours. At one point while she was sleeping it dropped down to 42.  Tests revealed Sophia had Complete Heart Block.

"Just what they call it is scary," recalls Fernandez about that day in the hospital.

Sophia's team of doctors explained that the electrical system in her heart did not work the way it should. They believed she was born with the condition that can go undetected.

"If you're only listening at one time, when she's active and energetic, her heart rate sounded pretty normal and that's how she got to be four months and that's when it finally comes to life," explained Dr. Holt.

Fear quickly turned to hope for the Fernandez family when they realized treatment options were available.

"We feel so lucky and blessed," said Fernandez as she hugged her daughter.

Within days Sophia was going in for surgery. The only signs of her surgery are two bandages on her stomach.  Now, a  tiny pacemaker the size of a silver dollar helps her heart beat the way it should. She'll have the device for the rest of her life.

Sophia is a happy baby and her mom knows she won't miss a beat.

"She's going to have a long and happy life she'll have children and really no limitation expect for contact sports which I don't see as a big loss in the grand scheme of things," Fernandez said.

She will require future operations to replace the battery in her pacemaker. Dr. Holt says less than 1000 infants across the country require pacemakers and as a team at Dell they perform a handful of these surgeries a year.

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