Paisley’s Story


Steven Roberts’ wife, Samantha, had a routine first pregnancy. Their daughter, Paisley, was even born without complications on July 17, 2012. Just five days after her birth, however, she displayed signs of lethargy and upon examination at a hospital in the Roberts’ hometown, was immediately flown to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital for advanced care.

Paisley was diagnosed with a severe coarctation of the aorta, five ventricular septal defects and one atrial septal defect, all of which required immediate corrective surgery. Because she wasn’t diagnosed immediately after she was born, she also suffered acute renal failure, respiratory failure and also experienced a seizure, which resulted in bleeding in the brain and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. Several UF Health physician teams treated her ailments, including those with the UF Health Congenital Heart Center and UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Neonatology division.

Paisley was treated in the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until she was prepared for cardiac surgery. During that time, she relied on a ventilator to breathe and had numerous electrocardiograms, or EKGs, and a cardiac computed tomography, or CT, to monitor her heart function. At just one-week old, Paisley also underwent two magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans to assess whether or not brain damage occurred during the bleeding, as such injuries typically result in significant brain function loss.

Remarkably, her initial scans showed minimal brain scarring and ongoing monitoring continues to present normal brain function, according to Martha Douglas-Escobar, MD, assistant professor of pediatric neonatology. Her kidney issue also resolved itself.

“Dr. Douglas-Escobar took care of me as much as Paisley,” said Samantha, Paisley’s mother. “I felt like my daughter was part of her family.  She maintained strength and optimism about an originally grave diagnosis.”

At three-weeks of age, Paisley underwent open-heart surgery with Mark Bleiweis , MD, director and principal cardiothoracic surgeon for the Congenital Heart Center.   With the exception of one residual VSD, all other defects were corrected and she was able to return home one month after surgery.


“Dr. Bleiweis was an amazing surgeon for our entire family,” Samantha said.  “He spent more than an hour talking to us about Paisley’s procedure before surgery, and continually popped in to check on her, and us.”

At nearly 2 years of age, Paisley’s resilience is undeniable.

At first glance of the active and inquisitive child, one wouldn’t surmise the turmoil her first few weeks of life entailed. But her parents and doctors alike are grateful she can live her life fully, while still being under the constant care and attention of UF Health physicians in the Congenital Heart Center and Neonatology division.

“The doctors who took care of Paisley during her two-month stay at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital still remember our rollercoaster ride, and continue to take a vested interest in the development and growth of my child,” said Roberts.  “UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is the village that helps to raise my child.